In the ludicrous sci-fi shoot-‘em-up Returner, a young Japanese girl named Milly (Anne Suzuki) travels back in time from the year 2084 to 2002 to prevent an alien race from conquering Earth. While watching the movie, you may also feel like you’ve traveled back in time – to the plots of any number of better films. (”Recycler” might be a better title.) Aside from the obvious ”Terminator” parallels, director Takashi Yamazaki’s mishmash also rips off ”The Matrix” via the character of Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro), an acrobatic, trenchcoat-clad warrior who acquires the power to slow down bullets and then duck out of their paths. The hired gun takes the spunky lass under his wing (shades of Luc Besson’s ”The Professional”), and they set out to save a captured extraterrestrial who bears an uncanny likeness to the title creature in a certain Steven Spielberg weeper.
With his tousled mane and wispy facial hair, Asian pop star/ Prada model Kaneshiro suggests a Japanese Johnny Depp, but even his charisma can’t carry ”Returner” through its interminable longueurs. Blame it on Yamazaki. If he simply sped up the many excruciatingly slo-mo action sequences to a normal clip, the nearly two-hour running time would probably shrink to a more manageable 90 minutes. At least the leisurely pace allows your mind time to consider questions like, Which ’80s pop star’s coiffure does the spiky blond ‘do of crime boss Mizoguchi (Goro Kishitani) most resemble: Billy Idol’s, Brian Setzer’s, or Simon LeBon’s? Why does Milly speak English in the future and Japanese in ‘02? And wouldn’t it be cool if you could travel back in time and choose not to see bad movies like ”Returner”? I wish I could.