Review: ‘Returner’

The black clothes, cool guitar soundtrack and al dente pasta are just as important as the plot in "Returner," a modish sci-fi vehicle for Takeshi Kaneshiro that marks the Japanese-Chinese thesp's first role in a Nipponese movie for some time. Lightly comedic approach to the story, and avoidance of any sexual frissons between the two leads, marks this as more of a family film in western markets, with video its most promising realm.

The black clothes, cool guitar soundtrack and al dente pasta are just as important as the plot in “Returner,” a modish sci-fi vehicle for Takeshi Kaneshiro that marks the Japanese-Chinese thesp’s first role in a Nipponese movie for some time. Lightly comedic approach to the story (aliens invading Earth), and avoidance of any sexual frissons between the two leads, marks this as more of a family film in western markets, with video its most promising realm. Ballyhooed pic took a very respectable $10 million in Japan last fall.

Film opens in Tibet amidst a last-ditch battle between earthlings and aliens in 2084, whence petite warrior Milly (perky teen Anne Suzuki) time-travels back to 2002 to thwart the start of the extra-terrestrials’ takeover. After bumping into the Robin Hood-like Miyamato (Kaneshiro), aka “Returner,” she finally convinces him to help her save human civilization – especially as the gangster responsible for the aliens’ anger is his longtime enemy, psycho Mizoguchi (Goro Kishitani, chewing the scenery). Kaneshiro is all long flowing locks and smoldering disdain, the visual F/X are only so-so, and pacing is almost brisk enough to hide the plot holes.

Returner

Japan

Production

A Toho release of a Returner Film Partners (Fuji TV, Toho, Amuse, Robot, Shirogumi, Imagica) presentation of a Robot production. (International sales: Pony Canyon, Tokyo.) Produced by Toru Horibe. Directed by Takashi Yamazaki. Screenplay, Yamazaki, Kenya Hirata.

Crew

Camera (color), Kozo Shibazaki, Akira Sato; editor, Takuya Taguchi; music, Akihiko Matsumoto; production designer, Anri Johjo. Reviewed on videodisc, London, Apr. 13, 2003. (Also in Pusan Film Festival 2002, Open Cinema.) Original title: Returner. Japanese, English & Mandarin dialogue. Running time: 116 min.

With

With: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Anne Suzuki, Goro Kishitani, Kirin Kiki.
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