Imagine you are in a foreign country, being there for the first time, and you decide to hop on a bus, taking a trip that lasts for 105 minutes from one point in the West to the other end in the East.
When you jump aboard, you will see unfamiliar faces revealing their characters, yet you can’t trust your instinct to believe in face value, but you’d rather wait for them telling their stories which may transport you to disbelief, as the stories will actually reveal their multi-layered characters. Of course, part of the stories will bore you to death, especially if they decide to give the explosive parts within the first half an hour, while you still have more than one hour to reach your destination.
How do you fill the gap hole?
One option will tell you to enjoy the scenery, something you might need to keep you well informed about that new city you are in. Otherwise, you can (pretend to) nod in whatever agreement those people telling you, and slowly sink yourself to doze off, right until you see that the terminal of your last stop is within the horizon.
There goes how you should watch 9 Naga.
The unsteady pace in telling the stories might be exactly what you experience when a car you’re in hits a bumpy road, after a brisk pace, you are forced to take a few gears back, and slowly build up the speed again, right before hitting another bumpy ones.
In this case, we are given a blowing promise within the first 30 minutes when Rudi Soedjarwo decides to lift the story up, pumping our adrenaline with some gritty scenes done exquisitely well, without either being banal or vulgar.
After all, this is the theme where Soedjarwo finds himself familiar with, having directed Mengejar Matahari which shares a similar brotherhood theme, and even Ada Apa Dengan Cinta? that puts a strong emphasize on sisterhood.
Yet, what follows afterwards is one big hole with overtly long, unnecessary scenes that seem to be filled in order to make the duration lasts longer than 90 minutes, something that Soedjarwo should be able to avoid. A conspiracy theory might predict that Soedjarwo tries hard to compromise the highly macho-theme with a touch of feminine side with a few light-hearted scenes, although the effect tends to prolong the film circling to nowhere.
Thankfully, the balance is more than enough to make the film as one of the rare films to bare the multi-faceted layers of its male characters. This is the field where Soedjarwo excels best, and he never shies away from exploring their emotional outbursts to a good extent. We get to see a tough man with a gentle heart and being responsible towards his family in his own way, whereas the other get to provide us with enlightening comic efffect, much needed in a film with such a ‘heavy’ theme like this.
No matter how heavy it is, your trip has ended, and when you look back, you realize that it shouldn’t take that long to reach your destination. But you are still grateful for the people you meet along the way.
Isn’t it a worth taking trip after all?!