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Faaaawk! Wat was deze baashard!
Intense, brutal gangster flick, supported by strong casting...
This is what a Yakuza film should look like!
Everything I said in my review of Election is basically true here, with the exception that the triads have finally learned of the existence of firearms! Only a couple centuries behind!
I jest. Violence happens in Triad Election but it is not the point. This is not Troy or Transformers or any of those action flicks. This is a drama.
And as a drama it is vastly superior to its predecessor, Election. In fact the 'bad guy' of this film is the 'good guy' of the previous film. Characters are far more nuanced. I believe that writers would do well to insert evil & flaws in their protagonists and good & morality in their antagonists. This wreaks havoc with the audience's expectations and causes them to actually engage, emotionally, in the film. It's not as simple as hating the villain and hoping he loses. Triad Election has plenty of that. The protagonist, a minor player from the first film, might betray his best friend or terrorize opposing gang members (in a rather gruesome scene) while the antagonist has a soft spot for his son.
So, although the plotting is not as precise as it could be, some violin background music is overused, and other technical elements are serviceable rather than inspired, I still wholeheartedly recommend this film. It has some powerful scenes and, in a sense, that's the best you can hope for. The emotions, the smoothness, the thrills... these all fade with time and age. But a powerful scene... it has a way of etching itself into your very perception of reality.
Final Say: If Election were as good as Triad Election, I would have no problem recommending this duo. Alas it is not. So what do I say? It is for those who love film.
How to Watch It: After the first movie.
"Triad Election" takes viewers deep into a ritualized world of the Triad Society crime organization which is full of betrayal, backstabbing, and power-grabbing moves for power. The movie contains complex characters, scheming political machinations, and explosive action sequences that creates balance against Jonnie To's unique directorial style and subversive plot twists. "Triad" is the sequel to the wildly successful "Election" (2005), which earned a number of awards and nominations including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2006. The "Triad" storyline expounds from its predecessor with a political subtext: the candidates here, elegantly played by Koo and Yam, are not only trapped by their own lust of power or wealth, but also by the mainland Chinese government's omniscient influence. To merges an intelligent screenplay with the hardball tactics of the Hong Kong underworld which contains political undertones and transcends an otherwise conventional crime drama storyline.
The slow burn caper maintains a business-like atmosphere, while its general sense of tranquility is interrupted with sudden bursts of intense violence. Noticeably absent is the trademark two-fisted gun play, sunglasses, and highly stylized action sequences so prevalent in Woo's films. To underplays the spectacle of violence -- he's more interested in the how the escalation reveals the character of the candidates. The majority of "Triad Election" is about the political maneuvering of organized crime, but when the conversations end, make no mistake, the blood flows mightily. "Triad Election" strongly resembles "The Godfather Part II" (1974), but it's resolutely a Chinese story, reaching back to the origins of Hong Kong crime syndicates, and showing how they struggle to keep a foothold in a modernized world. There are great modern crime movies out there -- Michael Mann's "Heat" (1995), Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas" (1990), and Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's "Infernal Affairs" trilogy. "Triad Election" unquestionably belongs with such illustrious company.
Influenced by "The Godfather" and nearly as good...
"Triad Election" is the much improved sequel to Johnnie To's 2005 film "Election." It is one of the best gangster films of the millennium and is one of the best foreign films that I have ever seen; it firmly belongs among the ranks of "The Godfather", "Goodfellas", and "The Departed".
The sequel takes place two years after the original. The Triads of the Wo Sing Society of Hong Kong are holding elections for a new chairman as they do every two years. Lok, the protagonist from the first film, is the presiding chairman who is about to be ousted from power. In the original, we've learned that Lok, was at one time, a fair and just man, but power corrupted his very core. His son watched him murder a rival in cold blood and their relationship has taken a turn for the worst. Lok, in defiance of Triad tradition, wants to serve as chairman for a lifetime. He sees no worthy successor and won't give up up his power because he likes it too much.
Jimmy, Lok's loyal, fair minded, and just business partner (also from the original) is among the leading candidates. Jimmy is also the king of Hong Kong's pirated porn industry and has made the Wo Sing Society very rich. He is a good man at heart and is very smart; his character is heavily inspired by Michael Corleone, Al Pacino's character in "The Godfather Trilogy". Jimmy is a reluctant nominee and only decides he wants the position after finding that he cannot do business outside of Hong Kong without the proper credentials. He goes about a journey that will change the essence of who he is and what he's capable of.
In "Election" we followed the similar story of two rivals, gunning for that very same position. The problem with "Election" was that we were constantly being teased about a big war between the two that never came into fruition. The film was about tradition and why even the gangsters have to adhere to them. Ultimately, the film felt like a grenade that never went off. In "Triad Election," however, we get to watch the full scope of the war between Lok and Jimmy, and it is a spectacle only rivaled by the best gangster films.
"Triad Election" is director Johnnie To's best film to date and I believe it is one the rare films that are flawless. The script is dark, smart, challenging, and engaging. The performances are all top class. The action is bloody, but exciting and fresh. To's direction and cinematography has never been more focused or beautiful. It so closely follows in "The Godfather's" footsteps (often times shot for shot in scenes involving a brooding Jimmy) that your comparing scenes in your head, remembering why you loved that film so much in the first place. "Goodfellas" was technically "The Godfather" without the heavy melodrama, and this film is somewhere in-between those two--perhaps not in quality, but in style and mood.
"Triad Election" is the second of To's films that have crept into my Top 100 Best Films list (the other being "Vengeance") and I believe it is a better, more focused effort than "The Departed" which also came out that same year. In fact, this is the second best film of 2006, behind an unforgettable Swedish film (in my top 30) named "Evil" (Ondskan).
"Triad Election" and many of To's other brilliant works (most of which I have reviewed) are streaming on Netflix.
builds off from its original and evolves into a sophisticated and reflective demon that is daunting and disgusting to face.
Poor Uncle Teng. He tried to get everyone to play by the rules, but Loc just wasn't having it. Sharp bursts of violence and careful planning dominate this second episode of Hong Kong gang battles. I'm guessing Loc's son isn't too upset that his dad is done visiting violence upon the world.
Triad by-elections prove no less malicious than those held in modern democracies as candidates and their supporters vie for supremacy by any means necessary in Johnnie To's "Election."
To, whose post handover work has included every genre under the sun but has been dominated by action pictures, gritty crime films, heroic bloodshed, and violent dramas is rarely a bore though he's only occasionally compelling. Here he hands over the wheel to the film's stars; the two candidates whose ying and yang personalities steer the dialogue-driven drama around many a pothole, narrow lane, and sharp turn.
The ever interchangeable Simon Yam is Lam Lok, a cool-under-fire single father whose election to the Chairman of the Wo Sing Society will surely mean longevity and prosperity for the triad.
Lam's opponent Big D (Tony Leung Ka-fai, who inhales the screen every time he's on it) by contrast is an irascible loud mouth who has the heart of a weasel and wears his cunningness on his sleeve.
Fanboys of kitschy stylized action (not unlike To's own "Fulltime Killer") will no doubt be bored to tears with this enticing triad entry whose violence is savage but sparse.
Louis Koo co-stars in what really is nothing more than an extended cameo and Shaw Brothers veteran David Chiang turns up as a Chief Inspector of Police.