At any other time, the storyline of a film like “R2B: Return to Base” — a reckless young fighter pilot (Korean superstar Rain) is taken down a few pegs by a more experienced and disciplined rival (Yu Jun-sang) and learns the value of teamwork — would likely earn references to “Top Gun.”
With the film by chance seeing release so closely after the recent death of “Top Gun” director Tony Scott, one almost feels sorry for “R2B” director Kim Dong-won for how inescapable the comparisons will be. They are not unfounded, of course, as Kim’s film looks to get premium mileage from the thrill of a slo-mo formation walk across a tarmac or the whooshing rush of the horizon line slipping by the cockpit.
Yet it is also when Kim veers furthest from the “Top Gun” template that “R2B” wanders into the weeds, with inordinate amounts of time given to one character’s domestic life and another’s emerging romance.
The film’s finale features a suitably high-octane finale in which our fearless heroes have only seven minutes to carry out an unsanctioned mission that will potentially save the world. Kim appears to meld CGI and actual aerial photography well, getting some genuine excitement from his dogfight scenes.
Too bad the storytelling doesn’t generate the same kind of electricity.
“R2B: Return to Base.” No MPAA rating; in Korean and English with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes. At CGV Cinemas, Los Angeles.