Cast: Yang Mi, Wallace Huo, King Shih-Chieh, Liu Chang, Hummer Zhang, Wang Lidan
Running Time: 1:45
Release Date: 6/30/17 (limited)
Review by Mark Dujsik | June 30, 2017
There's some pretty solid and rather nifty playing with time travel in Reset. That is until the third act, which works almost exclusively in explaining everything that has led to the main character's need to play with time travel in the first place. It's frustrating, because Zha Muchun's screenplay finds an inventive alteration on the time-traveling conceit. Just when the movie seems ready to continue down the path of expanding on it, the whole enterprise essentially stops for a lot of back story, exposition, and flashbacks, simply so we can understand an overly convoluted plot that doesn't particularly matter at that point.
One understands Zha's impulse here. It's the feeling of needing to close the story's loop, both from a narrative standpoint and from a perspective of instilling some kind of logic to the central conceit. The problem, of course, is that, if a movie hasn't convinced us of its internal time-jumping logic by the finale, it's unlikely that the movie is going to convert us in the final act. This one fall into a similar, if still entirely different, problem: Zha and director Chang have convinced us pretty well by then. Yes, it still possesses the head-scratching paradoxes that infest just about every story about traveling through time, but Zha is smart enough to give us a simple answer, which, in retrospect (and, at times, in the moment), doesn't make any sense. The clever part of the script is that it doesn't give us much time to really think about this fact.
It's a story about time travel that has a ticking clock to go along with it. Since it jumps backwards three times, that means it has three separate ticking clocks to exploit. The movie forces us to wrap our head around this gimmick, meaning that it distracts us from the weird metaphysics of the time traveling. That's always appreciated.
If that sounds complicated, it is, but Chang helps us through it without holding our hands. This is also appreciated.
The story revolves around Xia Tian (Yang Mi), a scientist involved in one of two companies competing to be the first to perfect human time travel. A few months before the plot begins, the rival of Tian's company has gone through human experiments before the technology was finished. The result was chaos, with time travelers killing each other and themselves, before destroying the lab.
You might be wondering what's meant by the idea of time travelers killing themselves. Well, the premise for the movie's time-travel conceit is that there are multiple universes. Time travel is possible because the jump is not necessarily through time but, instead, to a parallel timeline within an alternate universe.
This doesn't help to make much more sense of the gimmick, but don't fret. There are only two things that matter in this theoretical scenario: It's possible for a person to co-exist with an alternate version of himself or herself (since, apparently, both are made of separate matter from different universes), and one can only go back in time an hour and 50 minutes. Why is it 110 minutes? We have to assume it's because two hours would come across as too convenient within the realm of quantum physics. Also, any amount of time less than that would be useless in this story.
Anyway, Tian's son (Hummer Zhang) is kidnapped by Tsui Hu (Wallace Huo), a cruel and seemingly unstoppable villain who has been recruited by the rival company to steal Tian's data on her experiments. He gives her two hours to retrieve the data and bring it to him, or Hu will kill Tian's son. She does, and the villain kills the boy anyway, leading Tian to go back in time to try to correct her mistakes and save her son.
Getting a relatively small but still significant quibble out of the way, it's a bit unsettling how the movie uses a young child as little more than a prop. It's cheap and exploitative, since the kid can, in theory, be killed off once and again without any real consequences.
Apart from that, the movie's setup is effective, especially once Tian goes back in time, renders her past self unconscious, and goes about working with the knowledge of how she messed up the first time (She's accused of murder and has to play a game of cat-and-mouse with the lab's security). It becomes even more complicated once she has to go back again, leading to a timeline in which there are three variations of Tian working together at once. Yang's performance (along with the costume design) is tricky, since she has to play the same character at different levels of grief-driven determination, and valuable to the narrative, since we're never in doubt which version of Tian we're watching.
There are some decent action sequences, bolstered by Chang's choices of location (a car chase on a loading dock, along with some fighting, running, and shooting within a building that's under construction), and there's a fine sense of momentum. That is, of course, until the third act. That's when the logic of Reset falls apart—partly, because of all the explanations, partly because it wants us to sympathize with a villain (who possesses no sympathy himself), and mainly because it forces us to think too hard about a gimmick falls apart with any degree of thought.
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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