China, 2017, colour, 2.35:1, 104 mins.
Director: Chang 창 | 创.
Futuristic time-travel thriller is messily written and routinely directed, with actress Yang Mi miscast.
Early AD 2025. Two rival research institutes, the US-owned IPT on Eagle Island and Chinese-owned Nexus on Blue Island, are investigating particle transmission through time. IPT rushes into the human experimental research stage and the result is disastrous, with humans from different time planes killing each other. In a major conflagration, IPT’s data is destroyed; but the company’s investors organise a cover-up and launch a plan to steal data from Nexus, which is said to have made a breakthrough. IPT scientist Cui Hu (Huo Jianhua) is put in charge of the mission. At Nexus the team, supervised by director Cheng Yijie (Jin Shijie) and led by Xia Tian (Yang Mi), Xiang Dong (Gim Heui-weon), Daxiong (Liu Chang) and Huang Chen (Wang Lidan), succeed in transporting a monkey 110 minutes back in time. One month later, however, the monkey has started to show signs of molecular change in the brain, making him more aggressive. On her way home Xia Tian is kidnapped by Cui Hu’s men, who have already taken her beloved young son Doudou (Zhang Yihan) prisoner, and ordered to download all of Nexus’ data. Xia Tian says it’s impossible as the security system needs eye recognition from three people (herself, Cheng Yijie and Xiang Dong). Cui Hu gives her an hour, or Doudou will die and Nexus HQ be blown up. The time is 14:30. Back at Nexus Tower, Xia Tian finds Xiang Dong has been murdered; after hiding the body and taking his eyeball security pass, she manages to bluff her way, with Cheng Yijie’s agreement, into the system and downloads the data. After security discovers Xiang Dong’s body, Xia Tian is hunted through the building but she manages to escape and deliver the data to Cui Hu. He blows up the Nexus Tower anyway, and also kills Doudou, taking Xia Tian with him to help decode the data. En route the car crashes and Cui Hi dies, but not before he’s jokingly suggested to Xia Tian that she can meet her son by travelling back in time. Surviving the car crash, Xia Tian returns to the burning Nexus Tower, where she finds Daxiong by the particle transmitter. She beams herself back in time by 110 minutes, arriving at the time of Xiang Dong’s murder. Meeting herself discovering the body, she chloroforms her and gets Daxiong to help hide the body, thus giving her more time to download the data and escape from the building. This time round, knowing Cui Hu needs her alive, she bargains harder for Doudou when she hands over the data. But after things go tragically wrong, another Xia Tian travels back to join the existing two. This version is much tougher and angrier.
A sci-fi thriller with just one clever idea, Reset 逆时营救 is a mess on almost every level and proves again that squeaky-voiced Mainland actress Yang Mi 杨幂, though good in bits, still doesn’t have the screen heft to carry a whole movie on her own, especially outside rom-coms. Routinely directed by South Korea’s Chang 창 | 创, aka Yun Hong-seung 윤홍승 | 尹鸿承, known for the enjoyable high-school horror Death Bell 고死 피의 중간고사 (2008) and much less enjoyable action thriller The Target 표적 (2014), it’s let down by ludicrous plotting and dialogue – even on a pulpy level – and a lack of any real drama or tension. Amazingly, that didn’t stop it grossing a solid RMB200 million on Mainland release.
Despite being wholly Mainland financed and mostly Chinese cast, Reset has the look and feel of a South Korean movie – not surprisingly, as it was shot in Busan with a Korean crew. In a possible first, however, none of the Korean crew is identified on the film, whose credits, apart from the actors, list only Mainland comedy writer Zha Muchun 查慕春 (Hot Blood Band 热血男人帮, 2015), supervising producer Cheng Long 成龙 [Jackie Chan] whose Beijing-based Sparkle Roll Media was among the investors, copious Mainland production executives, and the Beijing sound team. The same production companies, New Clues Film and Jaywalk Film & Media, made the slightly better The Witness 我是证人 (2015), a Chinese remake of South Korean serial-killer thriller Blind 블라인드 (2011), which also starred Yang and grossed a solid RMB215 million.
Set eight years in the future, in an unidentified country where the signage is all in English but the population is Mandarin-speaking Chinese, the story centres on two rival tech giants, Chinese-owned Nexus and US-owned IPT, that are both researching particle transmission for time travel. When IPT jumps to human experimentation too soon, and the result ends in disaster, it decides to simply steal the data of Nexus, which has successfully transported a monkey but not yet humans. After kidnapping the beloved son of single-mother Nexus scientist Xia Tian (Yang) and forcing her to steal her institute’s data, her son ends up dead and she impulsively decides to test her own particle transmitter by beaming back in time (actually only 110 minutes) to “reset” history.
Though it takes half the movie to emerge, the film’s one neat (if illogically developed) idea is that Xia Tian has to travel back twice – which means that by the end there are three versions of herself running around, each more aggressive than the former as the time-travel process affects the brain. Yang is good at differentiating her various selves (especially the more gutsy no. 3 version) but is basically unbelievable as a research physicist and spends most of the film either squealing during the action sequences or being googoo-ey with her whiny son (child star Zhang Yihan 张艺瀚, 6). Only in the brief face-to-face-to-face finale does the film begin to tap its potential. As the villain of the piece, Taiwan’s Huo Jianhua 霍建华 is as wooden as usual, while his veteran compatriot Jin Shijie 金士杰, as the Nexus research director, looks like he doesn’t believe a word of his dialogue. Other roles are minimal.
Overall, the film isn’t trashy enough to be fun nor big-budget enough to impress with its scale. Technical credits are variable, from the cool-toned photography by Choi Chan-min 최찬민 | 崔赞民, cleanly futuristic sets by art director Jo Hwa-seong 조화성 | 曹和成, unpacey editing by veteran Gim Sang-beom 김상범 | 金尚范, and busy but ineffective symphonic score by Bang Jun-seok 방준석 | 方俊锡. Action by Bak Jeong-ryul박정률 | 朴政律 is just so-so, not helped by Yang’s lack of natural athleticism.
The film’s Chinese title literally means “Reverse-Time Rescue”.
Presented by New Clues Film (CN), Khorgos Jaywalk Film & Media (CN), Beijing Sparkle Roll Media (CN), August Entertainment (CN), Beijing Ent365 (CN) Culture Media. Produced by New Clues Film (CN), Khorgos Jaywalk Film & Media (CN).
Script: Zha Muchun. Photography: Choi Chan-min. Editing: Gim Sang-beom. Music: Bang Jun-seok. Art direction: Jo Hwa-seong. Sound: Jiang Guangtao. Action: Bak Jeong-ryul.
Cast: Yang Mi (Xia Tian), Huo Jianhua (Cui Hu), Jin Shijie (Cheng Yijie), Liu Chang (Daxiong), Zhang Yihan (Doudou), Wang Lidan (Huang Chen), Gim Heui-weon (Xiang Dong), Luo Guangxu (security head), Chen Youjin (Yellow Hair), Xu Lin (Cui Hu’s female sidekick), Czukor Balázs (test subject no. 69), Jason Taylor (IPT employee), Damien Furtado (US doctor in past), Craig Smith (IPT researcher in past).
Premiere: Houston Film Festival (Panorama China), 29 Apr 2017.
Release: China, 29 Jun 2017.