'Reset' ('Ni Shi Ying Jiu'): Film Review

Reset- Still1 -Mini Yang and Wallace Huo -Publicity-H 2017
Courtesy of Golden Network
An unhinged rollercoaster blockbuster.

Produced by Jackie Chan, Korean helmer Chang's sci-fi thriller features Chinese rom-com diva Mini Yang as a scientist who must return to the past to save her young son.

Throughout his decade-long career, Chang has always pushed genre to its extremes, with the excessive gore in the high-school horror flick Death Bell, the crazed rampage in the policier The Target and the mawkishness in the melodrama Canola. With his latest film, the single-monikered Korean director shows how bombast can transcend borders and cultures. A Chinese-language thriller starring two of China's best-known stars, Reset is a high-concept action pic gone completely haywire — one that is produced by Jackie Chan, no less.

Revolving around a physicist trying to save her son from harm by making repeated trips to the past via a time-transcending teleporter, Reset plucks fantastical sci-fi components from the likes of The FlyDéjà Vu and Edge of Tomorrow and dials everything up to 11. The result is a time-loop narrative which plays with doppelgangers and corporate crime, and Chang manages to gloss over the plot holes in Zhu Muchun's screenplay with a relentless barrage of digitally enhanced pyrotechnics and tear-jerking histrionics.

Even though it's weighed down by a flawed script and archetypal characters, Reset is more audacious and intellectually demanding than the comical fare which dominates mainstream Chinese cinema today. Set to open June 30 in China after its market premiere at Cannes, the film's success will probably hinge on the general audience's willingness to suspend their disbelief — not just in the futuristic story, but also in rom-com royalty Mini Yang's foray into action-thriller territory. It's a challenge that dented the latest outing of China's other queen of comedy, Fay Bai, whose rugged detective in Xu Jinglei's Missing foundered in April.

Reset is set in 2025, a world complete with futuristic skyscrapers, flashy gadgets and technologically advanced family entertainment, like kids climbing VR-enhanced mountains. It's against this virtual backdrop that the pic's heroine, the scientist Xia Tian (Yang), is first seen, scaling cliffs with her young son Doudou (Hummer Zhang). Though she's clearly more in her element as a high-flying research executive at a multinational tech corporation, her maternal love is what drives the film forward.

Backed by a team comprising her soon-to-retire mentor (Chin Shih-chieh), a handsome assistant (Liu Chang) and two bumbling sidekicks, Xia Tian is on the cusp of scientific greatness with her work on a particle transmitter which can transport people 110 minutes into the past. And then the baddies strike: A hitman (Wallace Huo) employed by a rival corporation abducts Xia Tian's boy and booby-traps her company, demanding she hand over her research data in exchange for everyone's safety. When she does, the villain blows up her company and kills her son anyway.

All this happens within the first 40 minutes of the film. Xia Tian's real adventure actually begins here, as she lives up to the film's title by travelling to the past and resetting everything before it all goes awry. As shown in a previous experiment with a chimpanzee, the transmitted individual emerges from the machine as a deranged mutant, giving Yang opportunities to expand her erstwhile limited acting range, as makes multiple trips through time to produce ever new personalities.

Yang just about passes muster with her performances, and her dynamic action scenes — madcap driving along city streets, improvising explosive devices in a lift, fighting against certain death in a giant garbage compactor — are a welcome breakout from her lovey-dovey comfort zone and a good counterpoint to Huo's one-note turn as the twisted antagonist. Things are considerably enhanced by Chang's high-octane visual approach, attained here with the help of veteran Korean editor Kim Sang-beom, whose credits read like a greatest hits of 21st century Korean cinema (My Sassy Girl, Oldboy, Kundo: Age of the Rampant). Reset is hardly in their class, but it offers a blockbuster template to which mainland Chinese filmmakers may well refer should they seek inspiration for a pull-out-all-the-stops blockbuster.

Production companies: New Clues Film, Huoerguosi Jaywalk Film and Media, Beijing Sparkle Roll Media, August Entertainment, Beijing Ent365 Culture Media
Cast: Mini Yang, Wallace Huo, Chin Shih-chieh, Liu Chang
Director: Chang
Screenwriter: Zha Muchun
Producers: Jackie Chan, Huang Zhenfeng, Gao Chen, Piao Enqing, Gigi Qi, Joe Tam, Shen Meili
Executive producers: Gigi Qi, Zeng Jia, Qi Jianhong, Liu Qian, Fu Quanping
Director of photography: Choi Chan-min
Editors: Kim Sang-beom
Music: Bang Jun-seok
Sales: Golden Network

In Mandarin
106 minutes