9413 (1998)

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 12/12/2007
Summary: smashy and fatty...

smash-head (francis ng) who accidentally shot a hostage, but was helped through the aftermath by his corrupt boss, officer kar (fredric mao). he now endures a life of self-loathing and self-destruction; seen by his peers as mentally unhinged, he aids kar in his dirty work and seems to be on the verge of losing it.

when he meets carmen (christine eng), a psychologist who witnesses one of his busts, he sees a possible road towards redemption ahead. as smash-head becomes closer to carmen, he also finds himself getting dragged further into kar's shady dealings, until he makes a discovery, which changes everything...

i'd wanted to watch this for a while; i'm a big fan of francis ng, as an actor, and was interested to see what his directorial debut, which got mixed reviews, was like. unfortunately, the dvd is out of print, but i managed to find a copy of it in a bargain bin in hong kong.

the film is, in essence, the tale of a good cop who has gone off the rails, but finds himself seeking redemption. it is a familiar theme, but francis ng decides to approach it from more of a low-key, art-house perspective than one might expect. the more i think about the film, the more i like his approach; sure, it isn't a masterpiece, but there's a lot of good there.

there's a strange dichotomy here; as much as the characters of the film talk about hong kong being built on garbage and reclaimed land, there also seems to be, mainly thanks to herman yau's christopher doyle-esque cinematography, a real affection for the city. yau does a grand job though and, when combined with editing of eric cheung, contributes greatly to the film, which is visually interesting throughout and really embraces its locations. it made me really hungry to return to hong kong...

francis does a good job in his role, even though some of his earlier scenes may jar a little, with the over the top nature of his character, they soon appear less o.t.t. as we discover more about him. christine eng does a good job, as the steadying influence on ng, whilst amanda lee, who plays smash-head's on-off love interest, is pretty damn good as a, similarly, self-destructive female. fredric mao, who i hadn't seen before, is also very good as the cold, calculating kar.

a final positive, for me, would be the music; some reasonable break-beats here and there, but some great, abstract noise and drone led stuff was the highlight. not what i expect to hear in hong kong cinema.

over all, it's an interesting debut and a film that i'll probably revisit sooner, rather than later. sure it's a little uneven, at times, but there is a lot to praise as well; it's a shame that francis has only directed two films in the ten years that followed...

good stuff.

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 03/02/2003
Summary: Poor

In his directorial debut, Francis Ng Chun-Yu brings us 'Smash Head', an emotionally bankrupt cop who began his downward spiral when he accidentally killed a hostage during a shootout. Saved from Internal Affairs by his Captain (Mo Chun-Fai), Smash Head exists on an eternal edge. He has few compunctions, and willingly does his captain’s dirty work for money. Smash Head is corrupt out of self loathing; he doesn’t actually enjoy sullying the badge.

Smash Head's redemption arrives in the form of Carmen (Christine Ng), a recently-repatriated HK resident who ends up a witness at one of Smash Head’s busts. She’s a psychiatrist, who takes it upon herself to heal Smash Head’s wounds. Nearly beyond help, Smash Head only rediscovers his moral center when his dead partner’s gun turns up with the serial numbers 9413 scratched off.

This is an engrossing story that works thanks to Francis Ng’s stylish direction. He manages a surprising instinct for his material, resorting to freeze frames and step-printing at appropriate moments, and static long takes at others. Ng’s performance works, too. It’s over-the-top (his speciality), but its appropriate for his burnt-out character.

Faring just as well is Amanda Lee as Smash Head’s occasional girlfriend. Christine Ng has always been a welcome presence, but she falters slightly here. It may be a fault of the material, which sometimes resorts to platitudes and clichés to achieve its end.

Far from a solid movie, but for a new guy, his effort is surprisingly good. Worth a watch, but don't expect to be fully entertained.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 02/12/2002

Francis Ng's directorial debut comes off a bit like a possible Hong Kong version of Bad Lieutenant as done by Wong Kar-Wai. It doesn't really have the style of Wong's movies or the blunt ferocity of Ferrara's, but it is a well-crafted and interesting take on the cop movie. The film does look good courtesy of cinematographer Herman Yau, the soundtrack is excellent and best of all, Francis Ng gives a great performance as cop who is pushed into doing dirty deeds after he accidentally kills a hostage. 9413 is a bit slow-moving and almost self-indulgent in parts, but overall this is a good movie that made me interested to see more of Ng's directorial work.

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 01/18/2002
Summary: Interesting if not entirely successful debut

Now Francis Ng is clearly a smart guy who understands the feel of a movie well, or he couldn't act as well as he does in so many different roles. So one might hope that as a director he would be quite spectacular. But directing a movie requires quite a bit more knowledge & experience than acting provides by itself, and his debut feature 9413 shows that he still needs to learn a little more about those things before he will be a great director. The two things that let it down as a movie are a slight lack of pace/consistency, and a little bit of self-indulgence.

Francis plays "Smash Head", a cop who is a few cookies short of being sane. He ends up seeing psychiatrist Christine Ng, who explores his character and finds herself getting drawn into his world. The movie is a very downbeat affair, with a very bleak view of life and especially life in Hong Kong. His character comes across sometimes as a frightened child who wants the world to make sense, wants people to be good, can't understand why it isn't so.

There's some interesting scenes and ideas presented, though it all lacks a little structure and is sometimes overplayed. I think Francis was perhaps a little self-conscious about directing... though not enough to stop him from inserting a really quite extended scene of significant physical intimacy with the very attractive Amanda Lee... a scene that really doesn't serve much purpose for the plot, and certainly could have been much shorter. ("Trust me, I'm the director... we really need to make out for the next 10 minutes or the movie just won't work!"... Good work that man!)

Ultimately, I did enjoy the movie because I appreciated its unique feel. It's not one that I think everybody would like though, and don't particularly expect to find myself watching it again any time.

Reviewed by: PAUL MARTINEZ
Date: 11/28/2001
Summary: I'm with You MilesC

Let me start off by saying I really respect Ryan's reviews. Usually I can tell if I would like a film or not by his take on it. That being said, I wish I would've seen the movie he reviews here.
The movie I saw was 9413 if you ever wondered what the term "a convuluted plot" was then watch this film. Other than that I could never recommend you seeing this. I'm not going to cover the story as that was done quite well by other reviewers.
I liked Francis Ng's work in other roles but in this one I just don't believe his character at all. Christine Ng however showed promise. I would like to see more of her, she had a captivating presence. Amanda Lee wasn't given much of a script to work with besides playing stoned. Still I found her extremely attractive.
Overall I think this movie got caught between trying to be an art film (Which It is not) and being a cop/love story. Which it might have worked if it didn't try to be so artsy.

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: shelly
Date: 02/07/2001

Francis Ng's directorial debut, 9413, is a weird and fascinating kind of art film. More cops and gangsters, but with psychological introspection, difficult, non-linear narrative, snazzy urban night-time visuals, it positions itself in the post-Wong Kar-wai line. Wacked out cop Lan Tau (Ng), pressured by his own violent past and by a corrupt boss, starts to think he's losing his mind, and begins to depend on sessions with psychologist Carmen (Christine Ng). There's a bitter essay on Hong Kong as a city at the heart of this film (updating, perhaps, GANGS apocalyptic take on the city's future?): as Ng's environmentally-obsessed character says, "the place we live is not safe at all; we all live on reclaimed land fill garbage, and all of it is sinking."

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: MilesC
Date: 12/11/1999

Unlike Ryan, I'm writing this long after viewing it, so I can't cite a lot of specific details; I can, however, say that this film was a real trial. I'm a fan of Francis Ng as an actor, so of course I was interested in his directoral debut; unfortunately, I got a lot of long, pointless, pseudo-artsy scenes comprising a rather amateurish whole. Ng also typecasts himself a bit, and the result is the first time I've seen his psycho act become grating. I really can't recommend this one on any level, unfortunately. Ng should stick to what he's good at.

Reviewed by: ryan
Date: 11/21/1999
Summary: 9413 (1998)

9413 looks like a number. Yeap. It's a serial number of a gun in the movie. However, in Cantonese, it has another meaning. 4 and 3 with the same pronounciation as 'Death' and 'Survive' in Cantonese respectively. Hence, in Cantonese it is also knon as probably die as you get only 10% to survive.

'9413' is attractive as it's the first movie directed by Francis NG Chun-yue, who has proved himself as a good actor in 'Young and Dangerous' series and 'Once Upon a Time in Triad Society' series in the past few years. His first movie is movie about a Cop 'Roaming Head' who had been killed an hostage in one action. This time he met psychologist Carmen (Christine ENG). With the internal passion and pressure from 'Roaming Head', he seek help from Carmen and they started the relationship. On the other hand, 'Roaming Head' is investigated by the board which suspended his duties. At the same time, his supervisor Inspector KAR tried to force him to join the gang of bibles. 'Roaming Head' is scared he will be steeping his past partner Fat Guy's way to death......

On the whole, '9413' is worth-watching. In fact, script writer SHAW Lai-king should be commended for her efforts in plots and contents. Basically, '9413' is a movie about hopeless while 'Roaming Head' is the character who receives all sorts of hopeless. First, he accidently killed a hostage which gave him a deep shadow in his remaining life. Second, he was suspended his duties by the investigation committe which means that he has no future to his career. His deep sense of environmental protection reflects that he is fear of the end of the World one day. Pressure from Inspector KAR shows that 'Roaming Head' has no choice in his future. Whatever what he has chosen, he knows that he can be survive for a long time. All these shows his deep sense of insecure while the plot can let audience to get such feeling in full.

Some guys may downgrade the movie as it looks a bit close to another Japanese movie. I consider '9413' have its own input to make the movie worth-watching. The frustrating style and depressed tone is hard to make. Though Francis NG is not very familiar with all the direction, but he can still make it well. Francis's direction is still new, some of the cinematography can be better in apprearance but at least with good application.

Francis NG, like some new director derived from actor like Eric KOT, opted a movie with new method in filming as his first direction. In general, such direction is not easy as both directions and scripts should be creative enough in order to give audience a new vision. However, a new director is good for that as they start with creations. '9413' is cool with the cool scripts. SHAW's script can not only reflect the depression of 'Roaming Head', but also show the hope from Carmen. The two characters contributed to the strong contrast and interaction.

About the ending of the movie, its a bit long and ridicious. However, it does not matter as they tend to make it totally hopeless. What I would like to say is that Carmen can finally read 'Roaming Head''s heart and extract his minds, which enables him to fight again Inspector KAR.

On the whole, '9413' is not excellect, but worth-watching and it can give you some feelings and thoughts. Plots should be commended.