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Issue #182 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES October 20th, 2003

(2002; Toho/Fuji Television Network/Returner Film Partners/Amuse
Pictures/Robot Production/Shirogumi/Imagica)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Out to eliminate longtime nemesis Mizoguchi (GRAVEYARD OF HONOR's Goro Kishitani), assassin Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro) succeeds in wiping out most of the gangster's men. However, when he is about to finish the job, Miyamoto is distracted by the arrival of Milly (Anne Suzuki) and his quarry is able to escape. Not only does Milly look strange but she professes to be on a vital, top secret mission. To ensure Miyamoto's cooperation, she implants a tiny bomb in his neck which will go off either at Milly's command or when her vital signs are terminated. She tells him that, in 2084, earth will be conquered by an alien race called the Daggra. Upon seeing the last remnants of the human resistance perish, Milly jumped into a time shifting device and has arrived in 2002 to try and prevent the future catastrophe. To do this, she must rescue a young Daggra being held prisoner at a Japanese scientific facility and return the creature to its mothership within three days. However, Mizoguchi and his goons also happen to be after the alien and the hood’s greed may doom all humanity to extinction.

Designed to be a Hollywood-style sci-fi blockbuster, RETURNER is also every bit as dumb and overproduced as most of them. As is apparent from the synopsis, it is built around elements from a number of American movies. The time travel plot is very reminiscent of THE TERMINATOR, as is the situation the humans of the future find themselves in. Kaneshiro wears a long black leather coat and engages in MATRIX-style acrobatics and bullet dodging, the alien looks like a cross between E.T. (it even uses one character to voice its message "I want to go home") and the visitors from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, and the creatures' ships are right out of INDEPENDENCE DAY. There is even a variation on the "long second" watch from TRANCERS that slowed down time, allowing the wearer to move at super speed (here, time remains the same but the person wearing the device can still fly around like lightning), and a long action sequence unfolds in an abandoned oil rig that looks exactly like the requisite factory basement. With this storyline, it is not surprising that the movie rarely takes itself very seriously and the plot's forward motion is courtesy largely of Miyamoto's elderly boss and her convenient ability to provide all necessary information and weapons at virtually a moment's notice. While quite watchable, RETURNER is ultimately too predictable and insubstantial, a shame as there was obviously a good bit of money spent here and some of the CGI is genuinely impressive. Yukiko Okamoto (BOUNCE KO GALS) has a supporting part as one Mizoguchi's spies.

Cover art courtesy Universe.

Anne Suzuki and Takeshi Kaneshiro. Image courtesy Universe.

Goro Kishitani. Image courtesy Universe.
Universe #6398 (Hong Kong label)

Sync Sound Japanese (Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS) and Dubbed Cantonese (Dolby Digital 2.0) Language Tracks

Optional Subtitles in English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)

8 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (1.85:1)

Coded for ALL Regions (the packaging incorrectly carries the Region 3 symbol)

NTSC Format

Contains moderate violence

DVD menu courtesy Universe.

Australia: MA 15+ (Medium Level Violence)
Hong Kong: IIB
Singapore (theatrical): NC16
Singapore: (video): PG [Passed With Cuts]
United States: R (for violence)

The anamorphic transfer (presumably identical to the Region 2 disc) is slightly soft and the colors are conceptually subdued. Considering all of the shooting and explosions, the audio (which features a mixture of Japanese, Mandarin, and English dialogue) is not as powerful or active as a Hollywood track. It remains quite acceptable, though, and can also be heard in DTS. Star Files on Takeshi Kaneshiro (aka Kam Sing-mo), Anne Suzuki, director Takashi Yamazaki, and Goro Kishitani are on offer, plus interviews with the first three, a trailer, and a 6 minute "Making Of..." (actually just some on-set footage). Thankfully, the extras have the same subtitle options as the feature. Columbia Tristar has acquired the U.S. rights but the Region 1 DVD will likely not include a DTS track, making the HK release a better bet. There is a reasonably smooth layer change at 59:00.

RETURNER is available at Poker Industries.

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