Returner (2002)

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Released 12-Nov-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Dolby Digital Trailer
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Cowboy Bebop, Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines
Rating ?
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 112:00
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (67:37) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Takashi Yamazaki

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Takeshi Kaneshiro
Ann Suzuki
Kirin Kiki
Goro Kishitani
Yukiko Okamoto
Mitsuru Murata
Kisuke Iida
Kazuya Shimizu
Chiharu Kawai
Dean Harrington
Xiaoqun Zhao
Masaya Takahashi
Case ?
RPI ? Music Akihiko Matsumoto
Takuya Taguchi
Thanos Kazakos

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.00:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"Who cares about the future?" 

    What if the fate of the world was in your hands? Not just the world, but humanity itself. In the world of 2084, mankind faces annihilation. Decades of war have all but destroyed the last vestiges of humanity, who have made a last stand in the mountains of Tibet. The enemy is the Daggra, a race of mechanized and armoured beings that can disguise their machines of battle as human aircraft or other machines. Those who can remember, remember that it was a crashed Daggra ship that came to Earth in 2002 which started the war. If only there was some way someone could travel back in time to confront the invader and destroy them before they were able to bring the aliens into a terrible war with Earth. It is just this that the last scientists have been able to achieve, and it comes time to send someone back to do the job. But as the humans ready their volunteer to travel into the past, the Daggra launch a sudden and crippling attack on the human outpost and the time travel machine faces destruction. In a last desperate attempt to begin the mission before it's over even before it's begun, a young girl, Miri (Anne Suzuki) jumps into the machine just before it's destroyed. She is the one, the 'Returner' that must seek out the alien and destroy it, thus preventing the Daggra invasion and saving mankind.

    Meanwhile, in 'our' time, gun for hire Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is on a mission to take out a people smuggling racket on board a cargo ship docked in a major port. Miyamoto has two surprises in store for him. The first is a real chance to kill his lifelong nemesis Mizoguchi (Goro Kishitani), a people smuggler and crime henchman of unsurpassed cruelty. The other surprise for Miyamoto is the strange appearance of a young girl in the middle of his fight with Mizoguchi. In a moment of shock, Miyamoto shoots Miri, and while distracted, Mizoguchi escapes. Taking the young girl back to his apartment, he discovers that she is uninjured as she was wearing a bullet-proof jacket at the time. He also discovers that this young girl may just be mad. With talk of aliens and time travel, Miyamoto is very sceptical of the young girl's claims. But if it's one thing any 'doubting Thomas' loves to see, it's proof, and with a range of futuristic devices at her disposal, Miri is able to eventually convince Miyamoto that she is whom she says she is.

    Travelling to the point where the alien ship was to have crashed, the pair discover the military have sealed off the area because of an 'unexploded bomb'. With this news, Miri discovers that she is too late to kill the alien at the crash site and now the pair must infiltrate the military compound where the alien and its ship are being held. The pair also have another problem to overcome: Mizoguchi has discovered the existence of the alien and its spacecraft and, seeking to use its weapons technology as a black market commodity, has himself taken the alien and the ship from the military to his own compound. It's double trouble for the heroic pair as the showdown with Mizoguchi and his men means not only a chance for Miyamoto to get revenge on his arch-rival, but one last chance to save mankind.

    Okay, confession time: I love these types of films. Hong Kong action films are one of my favourite things, and this, while not strictly a 'Hong Kong' film, does incorporate many of the hallmarks of the genre that have over the last few years become almost a staple of mainstream action films. You know the kind of stuff I mean; the black trench coats, the crazy gunfights that at times take place in mid-air, the slo-mo, the repeated shots of the same scene from different camera angles, the wire work and of course the martial arts. This film has all of these with heaps to spare, and admittedly I'm a sucker for it. There is also the sci-fi storyline that is an attraction and it's these two elements combined that really get me going. All this said, objectively, this is not the best film ever. I know this film has many fans, and to a large extent I'd count myself as one, but there are a lot of things that keep this film from nearing the sort of classic status that many would give it. First up would be the complete lack of originality in terms of script. We have so many different elements included here that we've all seen before. There is the Transformers element - 'It's an airplane...No wait! It's a giant killer robot!' - that is very unoriginal. Also, we've seen the go back in time to kill the person/alien/robot/dog/house plant/fallen pop star that leads to the destruction of mankind story a fair few times over the last 20 years, most prominently with the Terminator films which anyone would probably consider to be the benchmarks for the genre. Then there are the resulting time travel paradoxes/inconsistencies. With the whole time travel thing you are always going to have this problem, and anyone who has followed the developments in the Terminator and Back to the Future films will know of these. Can you change the past? If you do, and you are from the future, does your having changed the past prevent you from existing, therefore stopping you from being and traveling to the past to change it? See what I mean. For this film, it's probably best if you just ignore the time travel paradoxes that are present, as otherwise you'll be going 'But hang on, if she went back and stopped the war, then.......'. Forget about the loopholes in the whole time travel thing and this film will be much more fun.

    The performances here are quite good, with some great acting, especially from the young Anne Suzuki as Miri and the intriguing looking Goro Kishitani as the baddest of the bad guys. The special effects are quite good, and nearly on par with many big budget mainstream films from Hollywood. Some of the CG work is a bit obvious, but truthfully, usually it is anyway and we are becoming so accustomed to it that we don't pay much attention to it anymore. The CG work here is quite good and suits the film well. Well and truly can we refute the statement that the offerings of Asian cinema fade in comparison to those brought to us from Hollywood as not only are the Asian films fresher in approach (largely, there are exceptions of course), but they also can match anything that the Americans can offer in terms of technical quality. This film is right up there and far better than its straight to video distribution here in Australia might indicate.

    Like I said, I have a soft spot for this type of film, so I'm inclined to forgive a few of its failings. If you are able to do this as well and just enjoy the ride, you'll have a good fun time. This is great shoot-em-up fun for a Saturday night in front of the telly. Don't expect War and Peace, don't expect The Matrix, just expect to have fun. It's in this context that the film is at its most enjoyable.

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Transfer Quality


    We get a decent transfer from film to video here, and the overall package is quite good.

    We have the film in what looks to be its original theatrical aspect ratio, 1.85:1, with the appropriate 16x9 enhancement.

    The picture is quite sharp and clear throughout the program, with the only thing hampering the clarity of any given shot being the slight amount of grain that is visible throughout. This is not present to any distracting extent, but it is noticeable. I found the degree of shadow detail to be good with many of the film's darker scenes giving a good degree of detail. Again, the grain doesn't help, but it can't be helped so we needn't worry. I had no issues with low level noise.

    The colour scheme used during the film is quite natural with no gaudy colours or exaggeration. I found the colours on screen to be slightly muted in comparison to some transfers of modern films, but this is probably a combination of the director's intention and the film stock used. Colour's committal to this disc seems very good and presents no problems.

    This disc presents the material at an average bit rate of 6.25 Mb/s which is quite stable throughout the program. I found the transfer to be quite good with none of the MPEG pixelization or macroblocking nasties that occur from time to time. I managed to travel back in time and destroy edge enhancement, therefore preventing it from making any major distracting appearance on this disc. Aliasing is kept at bay with fine lines avoiding that annoying shimmer. The print used for the transfer to DVD was quite clean with only the very occasional nick and fleck apparent.

    This film presents a number of subtitle options, of which I only sampled the English option. My Japanese is a bit rusty, but watching the film in its original language with the supplied subtitles didn't seem to rob me of anything. There are several audio dubs (including English) available should you not like to watch the film with the subtitles on, but those we get seem good.

    This disc is RSDL formatted with the layer change taking place in Chapter 18 at 67:37. While this is mid-scene, it is not disrupting and many modern players will render this change invisibly.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio mix here is very appropriate and suits the material well.

    We have several audio options here, these being Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes in English, Japanese, Italian and Spanish all running at 448 Kb/s. I listened to the original Japanese track as well as the English dub, both in their entirety.

    I found the dialogue quality to be good with the spoken word understandable (or at least clear) throughout the program. The English dub was very clean and clear, while the original Japanese was a better option with the actor's true passion and inflection present which is missing in any foreign language dub. I had no problems with the audio sync, although it is hard to pick when you are reading subtitles for an entire film. I thought the sync was good.

    Music for the film comes from Japanese film composer Akihiko Matsumoto. While he doesn't have many films to his credit, he was nominated for a Best Film Score award by the Japanese Academy for his score for the film Odoru daisosasen (aka Bayside Shakedown) in 1998. His score, though used sparsely throughout the film, does suit the material well. We also get some modern music sprinkled throughout the film including a track from Lenny Kravitz during the end titles.

    This film gets a full blown 5.1 mix that serves the movie well. While the rears give more than just atmospheric sounds, they are still quite well integrated into the overall soundtrack and do an appropriate job without the gimmicks that might have been used. The usual helicopter fly-overs, machine gun shots and explosions get the most prominent role in the rears.

    The subwoofer also gets a fair bit to do with any high impact explosions and gunshots which the LFE channel backs up. Not overuse here, just appropriate use.


Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    This is a fairly bland package with only a few trailers on offer in the way of supplementary material.


    After the normal distributor's logo, we are taken to the disc's Main Menu which offers us the following:     The menus are 16x9 enhanced, but feature a static layout with no audio.

    Selecting the Trailers icon offers us the following:

    These trailers are also subtitled in Dutch, Spanish and Italian.

Theatrical Trailer - Cowboy Bebop   -   1:52

    This is a trailer for the popular anime series. With an English (American) voice-over, it looks like a pitch to get the North Americans interested in a genre that has really taken off in Asia (and Australia as well). This trailer is presented at 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement. Audio is in English Dolby Digital 2.0.

Theatrical Trailer - Returner   -   1:59

    This trailer hints at all the strong parts of the film and showcases some of the movie's biggest moments. Presented at 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement. Audio is in English Dolby Digital 2.0.

Theatrical Trailer - Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines   -   1:31

    Before he gave it all away for a shot at public office, Arnold reprised his role as the T-800 Terminator one last time. This popular series is similarly themed to Returner and it's understandable that the trailer for Terminator 3 would end up here. This is presented 16x9 enhanced at 1.85:1 with English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This disc has been released in Region 2 Japan (of course) and Region 3 Hong Kong as well as here in Region 4. It is due for release in Region 1 in early 2004. Of all the versions available, the film's home country of Japan gets the best package of all, but with a catch. Here is a break-down of the extras of each different version:

Region 2 Japan 2 Disc set

     Disc 1

     Disc 2

Region 3 Hong Kong single disc version

Region 4 Australia

    This is a tricky one, as while the Japanese disc is by far the best, many of the extras will be unusable by anyone except those who speak Japanese as there are no subtitle options for the extras. For ease of use, the Region 3 Hong Kong disc is probably the best pick, having English subtitles for the extras as well as the quite good dts track. Given that the Region 4 disc is currently a rental only option, the one to own would be the Region 3 Hong Kong disc. However, should you be lucky enough to speak Japanese...


    Yeah, I know. We've seen all this before, so there isn't anything original here. So what. You think that the 2003 Hollywood classic Hollywood Homicide was the benchmark of originality? So there are a heap of things here that we've seen before. Take the film as it is: good action shoot-em-up fun with lots of Hong Kong style. Good fun and a great way to waste a couple of hours. If you think that the cover is a turn-on, then this'll be right up your alley.

    The video is good with a clean image throughout affected slightly by a bit of film grain.

    The audio is good with 4 Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes available including the all-important original Japanese.

    The extras are thin on the ground with only 3 trailers available.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Thursday, January 01, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD RP-82 with DVD-Audio on board, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko TRW 325 / 32 SFT 10 76cm (32") 16x9. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RX-V2300 Dolby Digital and dts.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2300 110w X 6 connected via optical cable and shielded RCA (gold plated) connects for DVD-Audio
SpeakersVAF DC-X Fronts (bi-wired), VAF DC-6 Center, VAF DC-2 Rears, VAF LFE-07 Sub (Dual Amp. 80w x 2)

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