Chiu (Gordon Lam), an ex-soldier that served in the Hong Kong Military Services Corp, was left behind when Britain failed to provide him a way out before the colony was returned to China. Now working for a triad, he arranges a smuggling deal for boss Tai (Ben Yuen) and runs cons for extra cash. When Hong Kong-born South Asian drug runner Mani (Bipin Karma) suddenly appears in his apartment to hide from the same triad boss, along with a stolen bag of dope, Chiu cuts a deal with him in return for letting him stay. The two men, despite their cultural differences, see their similarities as remnants of the city’s colonial past, forging a close friendship as their lives become increasingly under threat.
Kin Long Chan’s stylish directorial debut confidently tackles character drama, crime thriller and suspense – the staples of Hong Kong crime cinema. Karma, in a prominent role rarely bestowed to South Asian actors, gives a moving performance that provides Hand Rolled Cigarette with an extra dimension by examining Hong Kong’s postcolonial cultural identity. The ever-versatile Lam is tremendous as a desperate man whose actions hide a deeper tragedy he is trying to amend. — Vicci Ho