Netflixable? China’s “The 9th Precinct” keeps Ghosts in Line

Get past the sometimes cool and properly sinister effects and “The 9th Precinct” is a very stupid movie — or at least a seriously silly one — trying to pass itself off as a serious thriller.

A tale of ghosts and the cops who keep them from breaking the law and disturbing the living, it is “R.I.P.D.” masquerading as “Ghost,” reaching for sentiment when “Ghostbusters” was always going to be closer to the mark.

It’s about a young traffic cop (Roy Chiu) whose ability to “see what other people can’t” lands him a job at the 9th in the subterranean offices of the Houli Police Agency. It was either that, or be fired. His instincts spotted a murderer, his partner got killed and he insisted in a report that a female ghost intervened on his behalf and saved him.

Must be nuts, right?

Det. Chang (Chia-Chia Peng) takes him on at the 9th and shows him the ropes of ghost-busting, as it were.

Special incense seems to enable interactions with the dead. A special yin/yang umbrella protects them. A “sacred water pistol” will defend him. You have speak to ghosts, but they won’t talk back, not that you can hear, anyway. And ghosts can cause trouble.

“One gets confused when one has just died,” Chang explains, in Mandarin with English subtitles. One gets a little confused streaming this movie, one hastens to add.

As they investigate hauntings, young officer Chen Chia-hao resents this work when they should be using ghosts, like his late traffic police partner, to track down killers. As ghosts lead him to bodies in a mass grave, Chia-hao’s sense of urgency seems justified.

Who or what is behind these deaths? Is there a serial killer, or are these ritual murders of some sort?

Flashbacks tell us of our hero’s “gift.” There’s a mystical colleague who allows herself to be “possessed” by The Master, a nosy reporter and an imperious hospital administrator to contend with, fights with the living and the dead and a game of Russian roulette.

And as sober as it all seems, it’s not scary enough to be a thriller and not silly enough to be played for laughs.

Co, a Chinese “R.I.P.D.” without any laughs. At all.

Rating: TV-MA, violence, smoking

Cast: Roy Chiu, Chia-Chia Peng, Eugenie Liu, Chen-Ling Wen, Blaire Chang, Eugenie Liu and
Heaven Hai.

Credits: Directed by Ding Lin Wang, scripted by Kiu -li Chang and Ding Lin Wang. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:36


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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