Takeshi Yamazaki's RETURNER
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
This movie is 1000% better than it should be. Credit the director (Takeshi Yamazaki) and his top-notch crew and cast. They shamelessly steal elements from numerous previous movies (Terminator, Independence Day, ET, Webmaster, Predator, Matrix, Timecop, Transformers, etc. etc.) and turn them into a fun, enjoyable time travel romp.
A dashing young hoodlum (Takeshi Kaneshiro) accidentally shoots a young woman (Ann Suzuki) who has arrived from 80 years in the future in the middle of a gang shootout. She has come back to prevent aliens from starting a war that devastate her world in the future. She recruits the young hoodlum to her cause, he introduces her to his middle aged shop-owner business manager (who also happens to run a weapons and herb store), and the pair are off on a chase to locate the aliens and the young hoodlum’s childhood nemesis “from the Mainland” (Goro Kishitani).
Described like this it sounds like a pile of crap. It isn’t. It is lively, tongue in cheek, has wonderful stunts and special effects, and it even throws in an occasional surprise or two. And every now and then it comes up with a scene that looks and plays as original, like:
- The future world headquarters of world resistance to the alien invasion is in Tibet (!)
- The sets and location shots are remarkably effective in communicating size and foreign-ness. Refineries and warehouses are put to very good use.
- After a while you can’t tell whether this is a Japanese film made in China, a Chinese film made in Japan, or something else entirely, so many local references have been removed or covered over.
- A Boeing 747 turns into a spaceship before your eye and a team of Predator/Independence Day style aliens emerges.
But there are also some really interesting extras on this DVD. My favorite is an extended “shooting diary” that tracks the location shots on a day by day basis, narrated (quite charmingly and humorously) by the director and the female lead. The scenes are very well described, and a lot of detail is covered — use of practical effects, steadicam use, trolley instead of rail cart to track running characters, blue screen, setting squibs, mounting blood bulbs behind character heads to capture blood spattering, padding floors to allow actors to fall —- a lot of educational detail is covered here if you pay attention. This documentary is vastly superior to the typical made for TV special we see so much on DVD’s.
Copyright (c) 2004 by Dennis D. McDonald