DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
RETURNER (RITANA) (director/writer: Takashi Yamazaki; screenwriter: Kenya Hirata; cinematographers: Kozo Shibasaki/Akira Sako; editor: Takuya Taguchi; music: Akihiko Matsumoto; cast: Anne Suzuki (Milly), Takeshi Kaneshiro (Miyamoto), Goro Kishitani (Mizoguchi), Kisuke Iida (Karasawa), Yukiko Okamoto (Dr Yagi), Kirin Kiki (Xie), Dean Harrington (Dr. Brown); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Chikahiro Ando/Toru Horibe/Akifumi Takuma; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; 2002-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)

"At its worse when it tries to get serious, emotional or to just end the damn film."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

There's no way for me to take such a ridiculous cartoonish derivative sci-fi action pic seriously and I found very little entertainment value in such a clumsily patched together pic, though some might find such stupidity funny stuff and to their liking. It never for a moment caught my interest or found a way for me to care about its one-dimensional characters or dumb story. Japanese director Takashi Yamazaki ("Space Battleship Yamato"/"Juvenile") rips off a number of recent sci-fi films such as Matrix, E.T. and The Terminator to come up with this forgettable mess, that is at its worse when it tries to get serious, emotional or to just end the damn film. This misfire is co-written by Yamazaki and Kenya Hirata, who seemed desperate to pull together a story from that old chestnut of an unlikely person or two as the only ones around to save the world. Originality is not one of the pic's strong suits.

Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is a Chinese-born orphan, who now as an adult is a street-smart black leather jacket wearing contract hit man living in Japan. Fifteen years ago when Miyamoto was a child in mainland China, a psychopathic thug named Mizoguchi (Goro Kishitani) kidnapped all Miyamoto's neighborhood children friends, including his best friend, and cut out their insides and sold them as body parts. Swearing revenge, Miyamoto has become a highly skilled fighter in the martial arts and by chance one night stops Mizoguchi's smuggling operation during a shoot-out aboard a docked ship, but his nemesis escapes when the hit man becomes distracted by someone suddenly appearing from a flash of light behind him. Back at his headquarters, Miyamoto learns he just missed killing a mysterious teenage Tibetan girl named Milly (Anne Suzuki). She tells him that she traveled back in time to 2002 from the future, 2084, due to a time slowing gadget watch and is on a mission to save the human race. She believes she must stop a war between the aliens and humans from continuing, a war the humans have no chance of winning. Milly desperately wants Miyamoto to believe her far-out story (just like the filmmaker wants the viewer to believe the pic's far-fetched story line) so she can use his fighting skill to help her on her mission and when she sees he doesn't believe her finds a clever way to get him to go along with her plan by planting a bomb inside his neck and threatening to explode it by remote control if he refuses to help. Miyamoto gets the message and teams up with the kid.

Meanwhile Mizoguchi's powerful and sinister elderly Triad boss, Karasawa (Kisuke Iida), head of the Chinese branch of the Yakuza, gets inside info from scientist Dr Yagi (Yukiko Okamoto) that an alien spacecraft has crashed and has been secretly taken to the NISS (National Institute of Space Science) government research lab. The crime boss figures if he possesses this high-tech alien vehicle, he will become the most powerful person in Japan and sends Mizoguchi and his goon squad to steal it from the lab. But Miyamoto's street sources come through and also provide him info about the alien spacecraft stored at the NISS. Once the good guys sneak into the space center, they realize that the baby Daggra alien just wants to return home and it's Mizoguchi and his evil brethren that refuse to allow that. The evil-doers want to steal the advanced technology of the spacecraft, and because of their greed are willing to start a deadly world war by dumbly killing the alien. It's up to Milly and Miyamoto, who are engaged in a cutesy platonic relationship, to save the planet as Miyamoto predictably gets sweet revenge on his sworn enemy.

The film's best moments were the ongoing stylish pop culture fashion show of black garb warn by the warrior characters, a few nifty Hong Kong action sequences and catching the joyful eating experience of al dente pasta by the sweet futuristic heroine. What the film lacked was imagination, the dialogue was annoying, the acting was second-rate, the story-telling was poor and it failed to be involving. The big budget CGI film went wrong in so many places, too many places to be rewarded with the honor of being thought of as a film so bad it was good.

REVIEWED ON 6/3/2012       GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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