Election

Film, Drama
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It’s nice to see a film from talented, prolific and versatile Hong Kong director Johnny To on our screens. ‘Election’ is his largely successful attempt to give a new spin to the Triad thriller (he’s already wrapped the sequel, which received a mixed response at Cannes last week). The election of the title refers to that contested by two gangsters – contained family man Lok (Simon Yam) and volatile Big D (Tony Leung Ka Fai) – a hot-headed Catherine wheel of a man who can’t leave a table unturned – for the chairmanship of the ancient, powerful Wu Sing Society. Tension builds and all-out war looms as the ‘uncles’ – the delightfully named Whistle, Cocky, Fish Ball et al – divide in their loyalties…

So far, so formulaic. But what is unexpected here is the emphasis and tone. Even the violence is unexpectedly unexpected, eschewing the usual cathartic frenzy of bloody chopsocky and arcade-game gunplay in favour of calmly viewed and human-scaled acts of brutality, using knives or available objects in dispassionate dispatches, providing disturbing, almost comically ironic expressions of businesslike professional psychosis. The mood, too, is dark without being heavy, with a score composed of delicate – again, perhaps ironic – little ditties and folk themes offering creepy counterpoint. The film suffers problems of tone (is it a thriller or a ‘Godfather’-lite essay on changing rituals in the new Hong Kong?) and identification (which sadist do you root for?). However, it is boosted by strong performances, To’s directorial lightfootedness and the widescreen cinematography of Siu-Keung Cheng, which contrasts neon-lit Kowloon and the lonely Chinese border roads with a relaxed meticulousness reminiscent of Walter Wottitz’s work on Jean-Pierre Melville’s thrillers.

By: Wally Hammond

Posted:

Release details

Rated:
18
Release date:
Friday June 9 2006
Duration:
101 mins

Cast and crew

Director:
Johnnie To
Screenwriter:
Yip Tin-Shing, Yau Nai-Hoi
Cast:
Louis Koo
Ka Tung Lam
Tony Leung Ka-Fai
Nick Cheung
Lam Suet
Siu-Fai Cheung
Simon Yam
Maggie Siu
Tian-lin Wang
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