by Del Harvey
This DVD is available for purchase at HKFlix.com.
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Hong Kong actor Francis Ng is well-regarded as a highly talented individual capable of playing almost any role. Because of his ability to bring quality to even the lowest budgeted films, it is no surprise that Ng’s directorial debut is more thought-provoking drama than crime action film.
The title of the film comes from the serial number on Ng’s partner’s gun. A polceman’s gun is supposed to be destroyed after his death, especially after that policeman has used it to kill himself. In the course of this film, Smashhead (Ng) discovers the gun has been used in several killings. Eventually, he uncovers the reason why his partner’s gun was stolen from the department and which cop was responsible. But before we are shown any of this we must first learn more about this crazy cop everyone calls Smashhead.
Smashhead is a cop whose life seems to be spiraling down quickly into the world of madness and decadence. He is haunted by a critical mistake made during a previous case when he accidentally killed a female hostage. His corrupt superior Kar (Fredric Mao) surprises his officer by testifying in his favor; but Smashhead learns this comes at a cost. In turn he must perform some illegal favors, which only furthers his negative attitude and self-descruction.
Somehow in all this Smashhead meets and befriends a female psychiatrist (Christine Ng), who somehow understands and sees through what he is going through and, even more surprising, manages to fall in love with this odd character. When, in the course of a routine assignment, Smashhead finally realizes that Kar was responsible for the death of his partner, he decides to report Kar and terminate their detrimental relationship. It is this decision which trigger events which puts Smashhead’s closest friends and family into grave danger.
I found 9413 to be a strongly acted drama with a solid, if somewhat simplistic, plot. Ng’s directorial style is sparse and sure, and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially for a first-timer. He plays it safe and comes up a winner for betting on character and story rather than heavyhanded action or special effects. The film has a look which is gritty if not a little dull. I am guessing this was planned as it adds to the overall atmosphere and sense of confusion and being lost.
I won’t say 9413 is for everyone, but it is definitely a cut above most Hong Kong actioners thanks to superb acting all around and a fine directorial debut from Francis Ng.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly and teaches screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago.
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