Triad Election

Dir: Johnnie To
Star: Louis Koo, Simon Yam, Wong Tin-Lam, Nick Cheung

Whoever thought organized crime was so democratic? I mean, voting to choose their leader? However, the shenanigans involved in this process make a Chicago mayoral election look like a kindergarten. The irony is, Jimmy (Koo) doesn't really want to be the top boss: but the Chinese authorities, on which he is relying to expand his legitimate business interests, demand he run, and win, to give them control of the triad's activities. Meanwhile, he faces competition from current leader Lok (Yam), who is intent on retaining his position, by any means necessary. Needless to say, the campaign tactics here rely rather less on intellectual debate, and more on threats of violence - and no small amount of actual violence itself, in particular, one scene where persuasion is taken to ends undreamt of, even in the more extreme wings of New Labour.

One is forced to wonder whether this is all some kind of sly comment on the larger political process in the post-return Hong Kong: it's actually a sequel to another film, just called Election, though you don't need to have seen that at all. The most obvious comparisons are to another sequel: Michael Corleone in The Godfather II, who finds himself a gangster as much through circumstance and a lack of options as anything, and Jimmy is in much the same boat. Though Johnnie To is best known as an action-director - and with good reason - this is a much more subdued and character-driven work. The derivative feel, in place of anything much genuinely inventive or original, does leave you feeling like this is some kind of Hong Kong revenge for The Departed. In both case, the original is better, though the transplant still works admirably.

[The DVD was released through Tartan Video USA on September 11th, including a making of featurette, interviews with the actors and the trailer.]

September 2007

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