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  Returner Step Back In Time
Year: 2002
Director: Takashi Yamazaki
Stars: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Anne Suzuki, Kirin Kiki, Gorô Kishitani, Yukiko Okamoto, Mitsuru Murata, Kisuke Iida, Kazuya Shimuzi, Chihau Kawai, Dean Harrington, Xiaoqun Zhao, Masaya Takahashi
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro) has finally tracked down his quarry: the gang boss Mizoguchi (Gorô Kishitani), who he holds a massive grudge against due to an incident in the past. He is on a ship in the harbour, and begins to make quick work of the henchmen the criminal has assembled around himself, using all his skills in combat to overcome the odds. However, just as it seems he has Mizoguchi in his sights, something unexpected occurs: there is a flash of light and a teenage girl, Milly (Anne Suzuki), appears from nowhere, distracting Miyamoto and allowing his target to escape. If only he knew what he was now getting into...

If nothing in science fiction is truly original in the twenty-first century, where we're living in the future with our three-course meals in pill form and flying cars, then perhaps we would be best to take the lead of Returner, or rather its creator Takashi Yamazaki, and make the best of what we do have in the genre. There were many who observed the similarities between this film and what had come before, so there was a bit of The Terminator here, a touch of The Matrix there, a dash of E.T. The Extraterrestrial for good measure, even Transformers before the American blockbusters were released, but they also noted the good nature and gee whizz enthusiasm with which it was presented.

Besides, Yamazaki put together his elements with glee and in such a manner that it was easy to be swept up in it all, not that you didn't recall all those bits that were reminiscent of other movies while watching, but you felt they were more homage than any slavish adherence to cliché. Milly, it turns out, has appeared from eighty-two years hence, where Planet Earth is fighting - and losing - a war with an alien race which has technology far in advance of ours, except for one thing. That being a time travel device (created by one Doc Brown!) which has sent Milly back to 2002 and the scene of the reason the war started, but as this pans out, she grows less sure of her mission the more she discovers.

She manages to enlist the help of Miyamoto, though he takes a lot of persuading of the "I have a small, remote controlled bomb attached to your neck" variety, so he's not exactly delighted at getting distracted from his own plans. What he does not know is that Mizoguchi is part of the reason the war began in the first place, so really he and Milly are better off teaming up, although he doesn't believe her explanation until she shows off her time slowing gadget, something that comes in very handy throughout the course of the film - hey, if you have one of those in your movie you might as well put it to good use, right? Besides, our intrepid heroes make a very decent dynamic duo in themselves.

Although there's an age difference, there's a sweet, platonic relationship that develops between Milly and her new guardian that helps buoy the plot over its more contrived patches, and there are quite a few of those. But you do like these two, and if there's no doubt in your mind that they will succeed, then at least getting to that finale is fun, and no matter how implausible this gets, without even the excuse that they're existing in a computer generated world to make it more convincing, there's an innocence to the whole thing that is cheering. With a little thought for the ethics of storming through your sci-fi actioner with guns blazing, and deciding that saving lives might be more conducive to peace than taking them (not if you're a black-clad henchman, mind you), it all does build to a sentimental denouement, and not just one either, which suits the daffy tone. Music by Akihiko Matsumoto.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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