1 item from 2006
HONG KONG -- For anyone who saw Election, Johnnie To's masterful, modern reworking of the Hong Kong Triad drama and its mythology, Election 2 isn't so much a sequel as a logical extension of the story.
It's hard to say why To hasn't transcended cult/art house status outside of Asia and specialty festivals, but in the wake of the moderate success of Infernal Affairs, the present mood might be right for To.
Less cryptic than The Longest Nite, which he produced, and less minimalist than The Mission -- two of To's best -- Election 2 is a more traditional narrative that audiences can easily follow. It focuses on fewer characters, giving audiences a chance to keep track of the major players. It's a natural for Asian and genre festivals following its international debut Out of Competition at this month's Festival de Cannes, where To has a stellar reputation.
When the first film stopped -- because it didn't end by a long shot -- Lok (Simon Yam) had won the chairmanship election and feloniously consolidated his power. The saga picks up with Lok angling to extend his term for another two years, which goes against all tradition, and lining up his allies and targeting his foes.
The less aggressive, more entrepreneurial Jimmy (Louis Koo) is his biggest rival: He's popular with the uncles because he is a good businessman, and he knows the future is in mainland China. Bloody circumstances unfold that force Jimmy to make a string of violent decisions that do, in fact, lead to the chairman's throne as well as a suitably ambiguous ending.
An ambiguous ending doesn't mean that To isn't completely in control of his material. In what could be either a Hong Kong answer to Kill Bill (one long film in two parts) or The Godfather, To seems to be exploring areas of the story that he didn't in Election. Perhaps the first film's production inspired other avenues To wanted to explore. Whatever the case, where To and writers Yau Nai-hoi and Yip Tin-shing stripped the Triad of its underworld tone in the first film and painted it as the modern quasicorporation it is today, in Election 2 the trio strips what remains of the Triad mythos -- its image as a heroic, loyalty-based brotherhood. Jimmy turns out to be every bit as ruthless and brutal as Lok or the deceased Big D, and this discovery is where much of Election 2's drama lies. This sequel is considerably darker, literally and figuratively, than its predecessor, and the prevailing sense of dread and simmering danger is palpable.
Credit should go to shooter Cheng Siu-keung and score composer Robert Ellis-Geiger. The film is every bit as vivid in its portrayal of the brotherhood as To's A Hero Never Dies; it's just that the pendulum has swung the other way. That film was glamorous. This one is not.
But it's not all violence and brutality. To allows his morbid sense of humor to shine through. There are moments of absurd hilarity that don't necessarily lighten the mood so much as bring it down to earth. The performances are strong all around, especially from Koo, an actor known less for his thespian exploits than for his tan. Mark Cheng as hired enforcer Xi provides the lightest moments as he goes about adjusting his rates from situation to situation. To fans are going to be delighted, and it's a good start for viewers unfamiliar with his work.
Milkyway Image Limited
Director: Johnnie To
Screenwriters: Yau Nai-hoi, Yip Tin-shing
Producer: Dennis Law, Johnnie To
Director of photography: Cheng Siu-keung
Production designer: Tony Yu
Music: Robert Ellis-Geiger
Editors: Law Wing-cheong, Jeff Cheong
Jimmy: Louis Koo
Lok: Simon Yam
Kun: Lam Ka-tung
Uncle Teng: Wong Tin-lam
Jet: Nick Cheung
Xi: Mark Cheng
Big Head: Lam Suet
No MPAA rating
Running time -- 97 minutes »
1 item from 2006
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