El Bicho's Hive

A Collection of Reviews Covering the Worlds of Art and Entertainment alongside other Snobbish Ramblings.

Friday, January 09, 2004


Written and Directed by Takashi Yamazaki

Returner is a fun, sci-fi B-movie from Japan, the kind you used to watch on Saturday afternoons when you were a kid. If you go into with that mindset, you should enjoy it. It's definitely something to watch with some friends and some intoxicants. If your expectations are any higher than just having a few laughs (some intentional, some not), you'll just be disappointed.

The year is 2084 and mankind is on the brink of devastation as an alien force is destroying everything in its path. A mission is devised: a young woman, Milly, has to go back in time to 2002 and change history to avert the war. She's not exactly sure what pivotal event she has to correct, only the time frame in which she has to do it by.

In 2002, we meet a ruthless gangster named Mizoguchi. He is involved in the trafficking of children to be sold for spare body parts. To illustrate to the audience how bad he is, he shoots into the crate of children to shut them up. I'm sure if there were a dog around he would have kicked it, too.

However a hit man disrupts the transfer of children this night. His name is Miyamoto and it turns out he has had a grudge against Mizoguchi for years. When Miyamoto was a child, Mizoguchi kidnapped Miyamoto’s friend. Miyamoto looked on helplessly, but vowed revenge.

Milly lands in the middle of a gun battle between Mizoguchi and Miyamoto and is shot, allowing Mizoguchi to escape in the confusion. Miyamoto wants to continue wreaking havoc on Mizoguchi’s operations but Milly convinces him to help her. In this instance I’m using the definition of the word "convince" meaning she straps a bomb to him that she will detonate if he refuses to help or if he tries taking it off.

A spaceship crashes in the desert and the government takes it to one of their labs for investigation. Milly thinks this might be why she has been sent back, so they head to the lab. Mizoguchi also has an interest in these events. He and his men kidnap the alien and take his ship. Mizoguchi is furious when a scientist tells him that they can't figure out how to get the ship to work. His management skills being what they are he kills her. In my favorite scene of the movie, Mizoguchi then approaches the injured alien and asks him how to operate the ship. The alien does nothing, which is probably due to his lack of understanding of Japanese more then anything else. Infuriated, Mizoguchi shoots the alien in the shoulder, causing it to scream in pain. The alien armada is unleashed as they look for their lost compatriot

Miyamoto and Milly head towards Mizoguchi's compound. Will they make it in time to save the alien before he dies? Can they stop the invasion and save the future? Does Miyamoto exact revenge on Mizoguchi?

You probably already know the answers if you’re a movie fan. And as most enjoyable B-movies do, it steals from a lot of other movies; in it’s story as well as in the director’s shot selections. Some might find this annoying at first, but after a while it becomes comical as the count rises. See how many you can find.

Goro Kishitani steals the show as Mizoguchi. I found him to be hysterical in about every scene he has. He's over the top with his gestures and attitude, appearing to be having a great time. I would like to see him in comedy.

Even though my standards for reviewing Returner are at B-movie, low-budget levels, I find myself wondering why the lengthy epilogue at the end. It doesn’t add anything to the story and is extremely anticlimactic. It may taint your enjoyment of the movie, so gather your jackets and start talking to friends at this point. If you took those intoxicants that I suggested earlier, now might be a good time to secure your ride home.


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