TL;DR – An interesting look at the barrier between life and death but takes some short cuts to get there
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene
Generally, the time we get films about what goes bump in the night it is around Halloween and not Christmas. So, it was a nice change of pace to get a film that explores the darker side of the world and what happens after death. With this in mind, today we explore a film that looks at that bridge between the living and the dead and what happens when you start playing with that fixed barrier.
So to set the scene, Chen Chia-Hao (Roy Chiu) works as a police officer for the Houli Police Agency. However, he has always led a special life because he can see the undead. This has led to him only rising to the rank of traffic cop even though he shows exemplary skill. One day while on patrol he finds a killer but during the arrest, his partner is shot and killed. He would have been killed too but a ghost stepped in and saved him. He refuses to change his report about a ghost and is fired but on his way out he is grabbed by the mysterious Mr Chang (Chia-Chia Peng) and given an offer to continue working for the police as a member of the secretive 9th Precinct, the ghost crimes bureau.
In some respects, this is a concept that is immediately familiar, in that what if Men in Black but instead of aliens they were ghosts or what if Ghostbusters were cops. However, in the first few minutes, you soon realise that while it might be familiar it goes in some very different directions. Part of this is locating the film in Taiwan, which gives you a whole different mythological basis to work with. The ghosts are familiar in the sense that they look like someone took a header into a vat of talcum powder which is quite effective. But then they can good from normal to hella creepy in the space of a second.
Where the film really excels is in its ability to mix so many emotional states in the one film. There is this overall lighter-hearted theme that underpins everything that almost makes it farcical in places as it moves into a more slapstick feel. But just as equally, it is capable of diving into moments of real sadness as they are dealing with the last requests of the dead. This means we see ghosts of old men straggling to comprehend but also that out young children. There are moments when the film is really touching and twangs at your heart and that’s some clever writing. A good example of this is in the character of Hsueh (Chen-Ling Wen) who most of the time is this tough-nosed detective, but then every now and again she is possessed by this demon that is controlled through the excessive consumption of alcohol.
While it is a good basis for a story there are a lot of shortcuts they have to take to get things moving that does, unfortunately, feel forced. One of them is the relationship between Mr Chang, Hoa and Chang’s daughter Ju-Hsin (Eugenie Liu). It is such a forced conflict that you can see it coming a mile away and it still comes off worse than you think. To add to that the big bad of the film Madam Chen (Heaven Hai) is so comically bad that she feels like she should be in children’s cartoon and not a horror film. However, thankfully when they get into that final act, it at least gets taken up a notch and works a lot better.
In the end, do we recommend The 9th Precinct? Well maybe. There are some moments here that are really well put together, and really make you think. However, there are some moments that feel really forced. For me, I think the first out ways the latter but your mileage might vary.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The 9th Precinct
Directed by – Leo Wang
Story by – Wolf Chen
Written by – Chang Kuo Li & Leo Wang
Music by – Hank Lee
Cinematography by – Stanley Liu
Edited by – Kipo Lin
Production/Distribution Companies – MandarinVision & Netflix
Starring – Roy Chiu, Chia-Chia Peng, Chen-Ling Wen, Eugenie Liu, Blaire Chang, Heaven Hai, Ying-Hsuan Kao, Mario Pu, Yu-Wei Shao, Sonia Sui, Tiger Wang, Kang Ren Wu, Yuan-hao Yao, Yann Yann Yeo, Wei-min Ying & Phoebe Yuan
Rating – Around an Australia: M;