Returner (2002) is a Japanese sci-fi/action film starring Takeshi Kaneshiro, Anne Suzuki, Goro Kishitani, and Kirin Kiki. Directed by Takashi Yamazaki. Written by Takashi Yamazaki and Kenya Hirata.

2084. After decades of intense fighting, an alien invasion force is close to destroying what’s left of the world. In a last-ditch effort to save the human race, a guerilla fighter named Milly leaps into a waiting Time Shifter. With the Alien Wars set to begin in 72 hours, she tricks Miyamoto, a skilled martial-arts expert and gunman, into joining her cause. Together the two launch an all-out assault on the local crime lord who’s captured a spaceship and imprisoned its extraterrestrial pilot. Now the Returner and her partner must free the captive alien before warships begin to attack the planet in this sci-fi thriller packed with dazzling special effects and blazing martial arts action.

Rated R. 117 minutes. Watch the trailer here …

My thoughts… Returner is one of the most unoriginal Japanese movies you will ever see! However, despite that fact that it borrows from The Terminator (1984), Independence Day (1996), The Matrix (1999), E.T. (1982), Back to the Future (1985), and other sci-fi blockbusters, Returner is a wildly entertaining film all on its own! In 2084, teenage rebel fighter Milly (Anne Suzuki) travels back to present day [well, 2002] to prevent an alien war that will devastate Earth in her time. She tricks good-hearted hitman Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro) into helping her rescue an alien being held by cold-blooded mobster Mizoguchi (Goro Kishitani) with whom Miyamoto has a score to settle. Returner‘s “dazzling special effects” are sometimes a little lackluster, particularly the CG effects; but the “blazing martial arts action” is quite impressive – in a John Woo meets The Matrix kind of way! However, Returner works mostly because of its main cast. Takeshi Kaneshiro and Anne Suzuki make a great cinematic duo! Their big bro-little sis kind of relationship is what really drives this kinetic mash-up of sci-fi cinema’s greatest hits! Miyamoto is cool and bad-ass, while Milly is feisty and adorable! Oh, and Goro Kishitani as Mizoguchi is delightfully ego-maniacal and homicidal! Returner was the beginning of my admiration of Taiwanese-Japanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro! My favorite Kaneshiro films include the romantic comedy Turn Left, Turn Right (2003) and the Chinese martial arts film House of Flying Daggers (2004). Anyway, Returner is derivative as hell but just as much fun!

Note: I originally had Transformers in my list of sci-fi films that Returner rips off until I realized that the Michael Bay-directed blockbuster was released in 2007! So, unless Returner director/co-writer Takashi Yamazaki actually traveled 5 years into the future and returned, then he’s probably borrowing from the Hasbro toy line or the first animated TV series (1984-87). Or maybe he built a working Time Shifter.