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RETURNER

Review by Chastity Campbell

Starring: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Anne Suzuki, Goro Kishitani, Kirin Kiki
Director: Takashi Yamazaki
Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital
Studio: Columbia Tri-Star
Features: See Review
Length: 117 Minutes
Release Date: February 10, 2004

ďWe are running out of choices, goÖGO, the future is in your hands!Ē

Film ***

On October 21st, 2002 aliens descended on earth.  Their mission was to destroy everything in their path, human or otherwise.  One woman sent back in time to prevent the invasion holds the future fate of the world in her hands. 

Can anyone say TERMINATOR!   I couldnít help myself, from the moment I popped this DVD in until the very end the same litany kept running through my mind, Terminator, T-2, and T-3: Rise Of The Machines.  Now, no one is saying this movie is a rip off of the Terminator series, but it is so very close on so many levels that you cannot deny the resemblance. 

I have not had the pleasure of watching the actors in this film anywhere else on the big screen that I am aware of.  Though I have had no exposure to them it, doesnít mean I cannot tell a good performance from a bad one.  Iím happy to say that both Takeshi Kaneshiro, and Anne Suzuki performed very well.  

Takeshiís character Miyamoto is the typical bad boy with a big heart.  Milly, played by Suzuki, is very determined, and easy to like.  The chemistry between the two actors worked to their advantage on an action film like this. 

An out of this world experience forces these two people to work side by side.  This creates a lot of friction, which adds to the suspense of the movie overall. 

The one problem I had was that this filmís primary language was Japanese.  Considering my Japanese is a bit rusty (uh hum), I opted to view this movie with the English language feature turned on.  Unfortunately the levels were low, and whoever did the voice over spoke quickly as well as softly.  This forced me to turn on the English subtitles, and this is where things got really weird!  

A subtitled movie is no problem I watch them all the time.  Switching to the English version of a foreign film I can handle that too.  Turning both features on together, now that was an experience I donít want to repeat anytime soon. 

The lips didnít sync up to what was being said, but that was to be expected.  Anyone whoís ever watched Godzilla knows that the lips will never match up to the dialogue.   It was when I turned on the subtitles that I noticed what was being spoken was not what was being written on the screen.  For the most part you could read and listen and things made a decent amount of sense.   Then there were other times where nothing made sense.  I would suggest using one or the other, not both at the same time.  Reading subtitles may not be fun, but the low dialogue levels of the English version may make reading more fundamental than ever before!

The special effects were very nicely done with a decent level of believability.  The fight scenes were very stylized and modern.  The choreography was tight, and gave the film that extra layer of believability needed when exceeding the boundaries the human body is capable of.   

The camera work was very modern with quick cuts and odd angles.  This helped the over all look and feel of the film. 

The story was interesting, and the effects were cool to watch.   That is enough to bring me back around for a second viewing, so give it a shot; the worst thing that could happen is you return the Returner! 

Video **

The 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen transfer of this DVD was a bit dirty despite being a newer movie.  I was surprised at how texturized the picture looked, but different filming standards were used on this film and that definitely played a major part in how this print looked.  

The colors were bright, and the lighting was used to good effect during the nighttime scenes.   The shading gave more sinister characters a level of depth that they wouldnít have had otherwise. 

Audio *

This Dolby Digital 5.1 mix was very disappointing.  The audio over all sounded hollow, and tinny.  The levels were like a bullet in a metal room, all over the place.  Also, it didnít seem like they took much time putting the language dubbing, and subtitles together considering they didnít match up very well. 

Features **

This DVD may have had only a couple of extra features, but comparing it to some discs being released today, at least it had some.

The Production Diary featurette brings Director Takashi Yamazaki and the movies female star Anne Suzuki right into your living to explain the making of this movie.  The voice tracks can be turned off so that you can watch how things unfolded behind the scenes without any distractions. 

Trailers for Cowboy Bebop, Returner, So Close, and Cyborg 009 are included, as well as audio options in Japanese, English, and French.  There are subtitles available as well in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. 

Scene selection and some very cool looking still frame menus bring this DVDís extra features full circle.

Summary:

Low audio and dirty video do nothing to help this DVD, but the film itself is fun to watch along with all the special effects.  The extra features are few, but the production diary is pretty cool to watch and listen to.  Give this disc a spin, but donít let the subtitles vs. the dialogue make you dizzy!