Returner (2003)

Genres - Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Sci-Fi Action, Alien Film  |   Release Date - Oct 17, 2003 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 118 min.  |   Countries - Japan   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Jeremy Wheeler

You know if a film is a complete rip-off of The Terminator and Independence Day rolled into one, it's gotta be pretty special. Throw in a whole lot of The Matrix's action and style, quirky Luc Besson-type characters, and even a little Clockstoppers (which itself was based entirely on The Matrix's "bullet-time" special effects) and you're pretty close to the end result that is Returner. With Kinji Fukasaku's genius Battle Royale breaking Japan out of the shadow of other highly-touted Asian cinema, it was only a matter of time before someone started to crank out this kind of rip-off crowd pleaser. Brimming with well-choreographed gun ballets and fantastic post-apocalyptic future war scenes, Returner will surely find an audience with action devotees and sci-fi fans alike. And while it doesn't offer too much creativity in its ideas or execution, Takashi Yamazaki's second film is one of those epic, big-budget flicks that'll load the audiences in, whether it's good or not -- in fact, it was the biggest money-maker of Japan in 2002! Box office and influences aside, there sadly really isn't anything new going on in this tale. And with a running time of almost 2 hours, Returner is just flat out too long! Pacing slows to a crawl at some moments, with subplots and dialogue hampering the action thirst that many fans will be craving going in. As it is though, it's still a fun, stupid time at the movies. The robots are cool (Transformers fans, watch out!) and the action is over the top and a hoot to watch. If you're a fan of the genre and are forgivable with this kind of stuff, seek out Returner and enjoy.