Anime meets Terminator meets Léon meets Stargate meets E.T. meets The Matrix
I saw the trailer of "Returner" while traipsing through the electronics department of a department store on my way to buy bed linen: amazed by the well made trailer that featured matrix like action sequences, some amazing CGI - effects and plenty of action I had to stop and stare at some nice wide-screen TV, just to be assaulted by some annoying sales person to check whether I'd like to buy same piece of equipment. To the chagrin of my girlfriend, I used the next opportunity to rent the DVD to check for myself wether this might be the best action movie I've never heard of. Well, it didn't even come close, but then, it didn't try too hard to be an action movie.
Millie (Anne Suzuki) is a teenager sent back through time to prevent a catastrophic war between aliens and mankind that has earth (and humanity) in 2082 at the brink of termination. Only a small fort in the Tibetan hills is holding out, and that is in danger of being annihilated as well. So, back to 2002 she jumps to prevent the spark that ignited the battle: the first contact between mankind and the alien race. She drops right into a battle between "hired gun on a mission" Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and evil triad henchman Mizoguchi (Goro Kishitani) just to get shot by the good guy. Of course she's able to get that killer with a heart on her side, and together they battle the Mizoguchi and his evil plot to use alien technology to dominate earth. Mayhem ensues. Sometimes.
The first thing that one has to admit is that this movie looks stunning. The director Takashi Yamazaki (who also claims responsibility for the CGIs) certainly has made his visual homework, giving the picture a glossy, artificial look (including Joel Silver's trademark yellow skies). The fights and shootouts are straight out of the Matrix book of Martial Arts, including slow motion bullets whizzing past the heroes and flowing black leather coats twirling in the air. The effects are beautiful and the camerawork is spotless. The script, however, lets the film down: Plotholes as big as Australia, awkward and downright cringeworthy dialogues (possibly an effect of the dubbing: maybe the movie makes more sense in the japanese original), unusual pacing (the film has numerous stops and starts and never keeps up its initial breakneck speed) and a lack of chemistry between the actors are obvious flaws. Another problem is the movie's reliance on anime setpieces: the little girl with big eyes in the school uniform, the dashing hero with long, flowing hair, the evil, halfmad baddie and planes doing transformers inspired, er, transformations make the flic more like a live action manga. No tentacle porn, though.
My significant other interestingly enough sat through the whole thing (although normally not really an action/sci-fi conaisseur) and remarked that her human interest was piqued by the presence of a strong female lead.
If you're happy to ignore the movie's flaws, you can still marvel at the effects and fight-scenes and enjoy some old fashioned popcorn entertainment.