His Dark Materials
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Director Johnnie To is to Hong Kong what Scorsese is to New York and American cinema. Few directors in the world capture the criminal underworld as well Johnnie To. What is made more remarkable is he does effortlessly and efficiently. At 97 mins, Election unfolds like a classic gangster epic, but an epic that has had its fat trimmed from every frame. Election is about the Chinese Triads and their democratic process to elect their next leader. Ever two years there's an election, and this campaign season sees to opposite men matching wits and violence to secure their votes. If the film had a softer under belly this could easily be a satire for American politics. But it isn't. And better for it.
A serious, mature film that relies heavily on substance! I prefer Johnnie To's Style over substance any day!
This movie's a tough nut to crack, and I think one of the best ways I can explain it is with the following tidbit:
This is a gangster (or Triad) movie in the vein of Godfather and there is not a single gun used in the entire film. In fact, there is not a single gun even shown.
Which isn't to say this is a non-violent film. Oh no. Triad members are boarded up in wooden boxes and kicked down hills; they are hacked with machetes; they are clobbered with bottles, trash-cans, logs, and a rock. In fact, that rock clubbing went on for so long that I became a little uncomfortable, reminding me of a scene in The Magdalene Sisters (2002) in which a woman shouts "You are not a man of God!" over and over for several minutes. Uncomfortable. But effective.
All of which is to say that this is not a frenetic action movie but rather an understated exploration of political intrigue and the seedy underbelly of Hong Kong triads. There is violence but it takes a backseat to the machinations of two rival Triad members attempting to win a once-every-two-years election to become the Wo Sing Society Chairman. Who knew that crime organizations could be so democratic?
In truth the plotting is a bit of a mess - and I kept thinking that Indiana Jones would have made short work of the whole triad (Never bring a knife to a gun fight) - but... it had a strange sort of appeal. It's grown on me. And I hear the sequel is considerably superior (and is the only reason I even learned about this film).
Final Say: Election is often described as Godfather done in Hong Kong style. That may describe the tone, yes, but not the quality. Still, this is a movie I would recommend watching if it came your way. I don't know that I'd seek it out - it depends on how good the sequel is.
How to Watch It: Prior to the sequel.
Trivia: Johnnie To, the director, is something of a John Woo of Hong Kong. Or so I hear. Certainly he's proliferate. From 1985 to 2012, he's directed some 50 films. Almost two a year!
A good crime drama well worth watching--A brooding HK gangster film!!
This crime drama offers an interesting look inside Taiwanese organized crime families (triads). The story is engaging, and thankfully opts to be a drama rather than an action movie.
Tough as nails and full of interesting faces, with lots of action, and not too much gore. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Very interesting film that give's a glimpse of the Triad organization habits and customs. The directing is ok, not the best of Johnnie To. I would say a should see.
A good peek into the Triad world. Bursts of brutal violence punctuate an otherwise pedestrian story.
This movie is to the Triads what The Godfather and Goodfellas is to the Mafia and what Battles Without Honor and Humanity is to the Yakuza. In other words, it's really fucking good.
Election is a meandering, unfocused, mostly boring but quite violent triad movie that is only a withering shadow of the former greatness of hong kong cinema