9413



Reviewed by YTSL

In recent years, more than one actor (and actress) -- in Hong Kong as well as Hollywood (E.g., Vincent Wan with “The Warning Time”, Crystal Kwok with “The Mistress”, Eric Kot with “First Love:  The Litter on the Breeze”, Anthony Wong with “New Tenant” and “Top Banana Club”, and Nicholas Tse and Stephen Fung with one episode of “Heroes in Love”) -- has tried his (or her) hands at directing movies.  In 1998, Francis Ng made his directorial debut at the helm of an artsy crime drama that apparently only had a HK$3 million (i.e., approximately US$400,000) budget and two week shooting schedule.  That this Category III rated -- for its steamy love as well as head-banging action scenes? -- work looks as polished as it does doubtlessly owes as much to the help that the film’s star as well as director managed to get from some others of the production’s very able cast and crew members.

One of these would be 9413’s executive producer as well as ace cinematographer (Herman Yau also happens to be a director in his own right -- with such as “From the Queen to the Chief Executive”, many of the “Troublesome Night” efforts,  “The Untold Story” and “Taxi Hunter” among his credits).  Another would be its scriptwriter cum associate producer, Sandy Shaw (whose other scriptwriting efforts include “The Heroic Trio”, “Executioners” and “My Father is a Hero”).  The contributions of co-stars Christine Ng (who -- presumably more than incidentally -- has appeared in eight different films with Francis Ng), Amanda Lee (who has worked with the respected character actor on five movies, and had a particularly memorable role as his beloved in “Full Alert”) and Fredric Mao (who took the part of the significant other of this offering’s main man one year earlier in “A Queer Story”) probably ought not be underestimated as well.
At the very least, Francis Ng’s familiarity with 9143’s two lead actresses seems to have ensured that there was quite a bit of sizzle in the love scenes that he and they appeared (even when not a single sex act involving any (two) of them seemed to have got successfully completed!).  More re those sections of this often unhurried feeling -- an aspect of it that is in keeping with a sympathetic character’s cautionary injunction that “If we hurry up, we never see things clearly” -- production:  On one hand, it can come across as self-indulgent of the director to have scenes in this film which allowed him to kiss and fondle two attractive -- albeit in different ways -- women.  On the other, I reckon that it (also) takes some guts for an individual to give himself as unflattering and demanding -- even if substantial plus richly complex -- a role as that which Mr. Ng landed for himself in this production.
To put it somewhat mildly:  Francis Ng’s Smash-Head is a rather anti-heroic as well as unorthodox character.  A policeman who accidentally killed a female hostage, has had to do some of his superior’s dirty work (in return for the corrupt cop -- Fredric Mao’s Officer Kar -- covering up that serious mistake he made), is an open smoker of pot plus is not above imbibing illegal pleasure-inducing substances and engaging in other exhibitionistic displays (including an exuberant public strip tease), he also happens to be a rabid environmentalist (who will abruptly halt a love-making act upon finding that his woman -- Amanda Lee’s Mandy -- is wearing environmentally-unfriendly plastic slippers as well as absolutely hates the sight of polyfoam floating in Hong Kong harbour’s polluted waters!).
Smash-Head’s attitude to life starts to change -- or at least, he works to change it -- however when he -- whose real name is Ko Chin Man -- makes the acquaintance of a personable as well as generally calm and assured hypno-therapist (Dr. Carmen Leung -- who is engagingly portrayed by Christine Ng -- is a real contrast with the hot-blooded Mandy as well as the film’s hot-headed protagonist).  Still, what really causes him to re-evaluate and seek to terminate such as his tainted association with Officer Kar is his finding physical proof -- in the form of his murdered ex-partner’s pistol (one which is recognizable by way of its having the numbers 9143 etched on it) -- having been in the hands of the rogue cop.  Unfortunately for Smash-Head, Officer Kar is not willing to let the wanna-be reformed character easily dissolve their relationship, and therefore sets about trying to retain his underling’s loyalty by putting those who Smash-Head has more valued ties with in major danger...
With a plot structure that is not exactly all that conventional for what is ostensibly primarily a crime drama, 9143 will not be everyone’s cup of bubbling hot -- yet also strangely soothing and consequently actually enjoyable -- tea.  Those who are avowed fans of melodic Cantopop may also be somewhat put off by this interesting movie’s soundtrack:  Which does include a sweet rendition of “I Got the Feeling” by singer-songwriter Kenny Bee but is dominated by what Stefan Hammond has described as “edgy industrial synth music mixe(d) with (construction site) piledrivers” (in “Hollywood East”, 2000:63).  In large part because I appreciate its creative originality -- and also the fine acting performances from the work’s four principal actors and actresses -- though, I found myself warming up to this effort as surely as the emotionally-troubled Smash-Head took a liking to the ministering angel that was Christine Ng’s Carmen.

My rating for this film:  7.5



DVD Information:

Distributed by WideSight

Like most transfers from WideSight the picture is soft and at times murky.

Letterboxed

Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks.

6 Chapters

The subtitles are burnt on Chinese and English.

There are no extras.