"It has a story that is unique enough to give it legs of its own, even though elements are heavily borrowed from other classics."
AKA: The Returner
Director: Takashi Yamazaki
Producer: Toru Horibe
Cast: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Ann Suzuki, Kirin Kiki, Goro Kishitani, Yukiko Okamoto, Mitsuru Murata
Running Time: 117 min.
Plot: In the future, when Earth has been all but conquered by an alien species, a lone warrior travels back in time to stop the destruction before it has a chance to start.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
EQUINOX21'S REVIEW: Say you are a Japanese film-maker, how do you make an extremely cool sci-fi action movie? Here's the recipe; start with an alien invasion (ala ID4), sprinkle in a healthy dose of Terminator (humanity's last hope is to send someone back in time to stop the war before it starts). Stir into this characters dressed to kill so they'd fit right in in The Matrix. For added flavor add dashes of Back to the Future, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Transformers and excellent computer graphics. Top it all off with terrific actors and you're sure to please!
I love this movie. Sure, it borrows heavily from a few of the movies mentioned above, but it puts enough interesting spins on it to make it unique and fun as hell. In the year 2084, humanity is all but wiped out after an alien invasion. They manage to send one human, Milly (Anne Suzuki), who took over for a soldier who was killed before he could jump into the time warp, through time to 2002 as their base is being overrun by the alien onslaught. The year 2002 is when the first alien showed up and the plan is for Milly to kill the first alien on Earth to stop the invasion before it can start. Upon her entry into the year 2002 she runs into Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro), and forces him to help her with her mission. Eventually, however, she discovers the truth and the problem with her plan, and is left with only a few days to complete her new mission with the help of Miyamoto. Meanwhile, Miyamoto is gunning for Mizoguchi (Goro Kishitani), who has been kidnapping street kids (including Miyamoto's best friend, 15 years ago), killing them and harvesting their organs to make heaps of money for his Triad boss back in China. The movie takes place almost entirely in the year 2002 with "flashbacks" to Milly's past in 2084 and to Miyamoto's past in 1987.
The action and special effects are absolutely the most astounding I've seen in any Asian film thus far. There are action sequences that worked very much like the Jet Li movie The One, in that everyone is moving in slow-motion except for one character that is moving at regular speed. But the effect in The Returner works far better than it did in The One, and it looks far more realistic and cool than Bullet-time does in The Matrix, all thanks to some extremely well done CGI.
The three main actors in Returner were all perfectly cast. Takeshi Kaneshiro is easily one of the best Asian actors there is, in action, drama, or comedy. Unfortunately, this is the only movie he's done in 2 years, but at least he knows how to pick them! Anne Suzuki is a tough girl and super cute albeit underage. Milly is only a teenager, about 15 or 16 (though we're never specifically told her exact age), but she is definitely wise beyond her years, due to being brought up in the war zone that is Earth of the future, and Ms. Suzuki plays this to maximum effect. Goro Kishitani plays a stereotypical evil Triad lieutenant, but he succeeds in making Mizoguchi pretty despicable. The characters couldn't have been played by better actors.
If you're at all a fan of sci-fi movies, specifically Terminator or Matrix style movies, be sure to check out The Returner. It has a story that is unique enough to give it legs of its own, even though elements are heavily borrowed from other classics. But fear not, this movie is one hell of a ride!
EQUINOX21'S RATING: 9/10