China (2017) Dir. Chang

Time travel was very popular in films next year. Many directors from across the globe have had a crack at it, now it is China’s turn, although helming this project is actually Korean director Hong-Seung Yoon, under the pseudonym Chang, presumably to distance himself from any films he is embarrassed about.

As always with this genre the story gets a bit convoluted so bear with me as I try to decipher the plot as best I can. The Nexus Corporation is at the forefront of developing wormhole technology that can transport matter to a parallel universe. A rival company in the same field, IPT Lab, have made fewer inroads with their developments so they hire Tsui Hu (Wallace Huo) to steal research data from Nexus.

Hu kidnaps DouDou (Hummer Zhang) the son of head scientist Xia Tian (Yang Mi) and holds him to ransom, giving Tian one hour to retrieve the data. Tian achieves this by the skin of her teeth, setting off a major kerfuffle in the process, but is late so Hu cruelly kills DouDou anyway. A distraught Tian returns to the Nexus building and uses the particle accelerator to travel back in foil Hu’s plan and save her son.

Reset was produced by Jackie Chan which would explain the incongruous action scenes some might find the highlight of this film, as they serve to distract us from mulling on the complexities of the plot. It’s no so much that it is necessarily confusing on a cerebral level but a staple caveat with time travel stories is the paradox of two or more versions of the same person existing in the one timeline.

This problem is overcome by essentially ignoring it but it is employed to add emotional leverage to its central theme lamenting professionals tied to their jobs and spending less time with their families. Using a single mother kept away from her young son as its totem is a crafty but effective tactic but also sets equality in the workplace back 30 years and without the use of time travel.

Before that, there is the matter of how this situation got out of hand, suggesting a race against the American IPT Lab seem to be an American organisation., which becomes a moot point since Hu and his cohorts are all Chinese, negating this as an act of patriotism for them. Instead, Hu is driven by personal and tragic motives which seem noble but as this is the case, why not just peacefully defect to Nexus from IPT?

At the moment, Nexus have mastered the ability to send animals to a parallel universe, but the broken down cells in the alternate version results in a higher level of aggression, thus the success is still some way off. Tian heads the team of Da Xiong (Liu Chang) and Xian-Dong (token Korean Kim Hee-won) under the aegis of the Research Director (King Shih-Chieh), but before they can work on this issue, Hu strikes.

It is over 45 minutes into the film before Tian suffers the loss of her son, whilst Hu has detonated a number of explosives at the Nexus building leaving the place in chaos, not to mention that Tian has a murder accusation against her. Unless I missed something, how Tian suddenly concludes the faulty particle accelerator could double as a fully working time machine isn’t explained but I suppose grief does funny things to people.

From here, the story starts to get interesting/far-fetched/open to nerdy nitpicking. The second Tian appears from the machine and knocks out the original Tian, then sets an audacious plan in motion to steal the data and get back at Hu. It backfires and poor DouDou is killed again (after a stunt filed car chase) so it is back to the time machine for another go, giving us three Tians to follow.

But this is no ordinary cloning because the technology isn’t up to scratch but luckily in this instance it pays off, because each successive version of Tian is increasingly tougher and more confident than the last. This also parlays into impressive fighting and shooting skills that we can assume weren’t present before, another of those little details about which we are to suspend our disbelief.

Something else that isn’t up to scrutiny is the motive of one of the villainous characters (whose identity I can’t reveal for spoiler reasons) which just does not compute even in a goofy context such as this one. This person does have a legit, personal grievance but for most people, resignation is the best way to handle such a thing not involving yourself in petty, destructive revenge, making the twist seem like it was done for the sake of it.

As suggested earlier, one can’t help but feel Jackie Chan had an influence over the action sequences and elaborate fight scenes between Hu and Tian vII, which take in scuffles on a high scaffold, which reek of the sort death defying antics Chan gets up to in his own films. They add plenty of tension and excitement in portraying Hu as the sadistic foe and ramping up the danger Tian is caught up in, but frame our heroine as too indestructible.

Presumably having a blast was Yang Mi, playing three different sides of one character at the same time. At first, she seems like every other female Chinese lead but by the end, she impresses with her emotional range and adroit essaying of the darker permutations of Tian in singular form, not to mention being a strong female lead whose softer side is manifest in her overriding maternal love for her son.

Reset will be a film that people will delight in picking apart the minutiae despite a solid enough story driving things along. The presentation is slick with Chang’s direction adding a subtle Korean flavour to an otherwise Chinese production. If you can remove your cynical cap for 105-minutes, this is a perfectly enjoyable slice of escapist hokum.