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9 NagaMovie Review
by Andrea Tan
Genre: Drama, action, crime
Heart-wrenching to the very end
The latest Indonesian film to hit Malaysian cinemas is 9 Naga (or 9 Dragons), a film that breaks away from the usual tale of young love we've been seeing in the past. Quite a change but more emotionally charged than usual.
Director Rudi Soedjarwo, better known for his previous box office works Ada Apa Dengan Cinta and Tentang Dia, takes a turn into the slums of Indonesia and paints a bleak life on the harsh reality of its characters in 9 Naga. No teeny-bopper soundtrack to go with this film for sure.
The film tells a story of three friends, though a large chunk of it centers on Marwan (Lukman Sardi). Marwan is feared by those living in the ghettos of Jakarta. He is a hired gun, executing the dirty job for a gangster who physically looks like the Indonesian version of James Brown.
Marwan's posse is Lenny (Fauzi Baadila) and Donny (Donny Alamsyah). The three began the life of hired assassins at a young age when Marwan and Lenny accidentally killed a man who attacked Donny. Instead of jail time for their crime, the boys were rewarded with cash. To the boys, the idea of blood for money is a calling and a way to earn big bucks to survive their poverty-stricken life.
Now that they are older, they began to question their life in the “extermination business”. Marwan, with a wheelchair-bound wife and a young son, struggles to see a better prospect beyond this bleak reality. Lenny, on the other hand, is smitten with a girl and tries to find confidence and some dignity to talk to her. Donny has a promising plan compared to the two. He wants to quit for good and start a T-shirt business with his brother Adi (Marcel Anthony).
Despite Donny and Lenny's insistence to leave that life, Marwan goes on to make it difficult for them. In their last job, something goes awry and everything else goes downhill from there.
The title 9 Naga comes from a graphic novel of Adi's which tells the tale of nine dragons. Dragons were said to be the most powerful creatures on earth. They thought themselves as superior and attempted to rule the world of men. Unfortunately, they underestimated the humans and were slayed until only nine were left. This tale serves as a metaphor for the film, or rather for the character Marwan.
When things go bad, they really go bad to the core. The plot treads a long-winded heart-wrenching path that tugs at your emotions to the very end. Director Soedjarwo reveals raw and painful insight into the life of a criminal. He doesn't romanticize it, but brings a gritty reality to what really happens on the streets. So don't expect a happy ending for this one. The sadness it brings stays on with you even after you had long left the cinema.
The running time for this film is approximately one hour forty-five minutes. But watching it feels like eternity. It gets draggy after the first part of the story when characters began to get philosophical about their lives. Just when you think the emotional part is over, the story throws in another heartbreaking moment (or two) to make it worse. If you cry easily, I suggest you bring a box of tissue along.
Despite the draggy-ness of the story, 9 Naga boasts a great cast. The actors may be unknown to us but their performance are undeniably convincing—particularly Lukman Sardi's portrayal of Marwan, a character you may love to hate at first but later turns out to be more human as he endures the harshness of his fate.
9 Naga is a story of brotherhood and family, regrets and redemption. If you don't mind the emotional ride in this film, this is actually a really good drama and a worthwhile film to watch.
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