Rival gang leaders are locked in a struggle to become the new chairman of Hong Kong's Triad society.Rival gang leaders are locked in a struggle to become the new chairman of Hong Kong's Triad society.Rival gang leaders are locked in a struggle to become the new chairman of Hong Kong's Triad society.
Without wishing to sound too condescending before hitting the heart of the review, you can often (not always) gauge the credibility of a film based on where the "quotes" on the DVD box have originated. In England, the usual credible resources are Empire, The Observer/Guardian, probably The Independent and for the most part Johnathon Ross, so given that this film has been brandished a five star rating by "NEO" sent alarm bells ringing, but I am open minded, and do not let nonsense like that sway my opinion.
Election is severely interesting on the basis of it being a pure triad film. Obviously my knowledge of the organisation is severely limited, but from what I can ascertain this is as "realistic" as you will get, next to standing in the room itself, as the rituals and ceremonies have all been meticulously planned, structured and filmed. In this sense, Election manages to bring out the very best in Eastern cinema, the rich culture (despite the notorious background of the Triad) steeped in tradition holding important virtues and values such as honour, which have all too often have been left behind in the Middle Ages. Election provides what can only be described as a rare insight, and chances are you will not find another film (barring Volume II) which will be as true and as accurate as this. Other plus points include the strength of the cinematography, typically shot in clean contrast with vivid colours and engaging compositions, while the acting is convincing with some slick performances from Tony Leung and Simon Yam.
Election confronts the issue of the modern globalised world coming into conflict with the traditions of heritage of the triad which are seemingly being swamped by the sheer force of power the outside world, and in particular capitalism, possesses. However, and yes it was inevitable, the script, despite having won the award for Best Screenplay at the Hong Kong Film Festival is decidedly average if not poor. The performances aside, it does very little to engage you as an audience, nor does it contain a gravitas to sweep you off your feet and cart you away down a roller-coaster ride, and perhaps this is the directors want. However The Godfather, for example was a film which had a relatively slow paced storyline, yet you were utterly immersed for nigh on three hours, with Election the 100 minutes, feels like three hours, and that is not a good thing. Not enough actually takes place on screen to engage you, there are debates among elders about who should be the next Chairman, you see the candidates approach other members of the triad to ask for their support, you see more debating, you see various characters obviously being set up to be more important in volumes II and III, and you see some good acting go to waste with not much happening.
I did want to like this film immensely, and I gave it all the time it needed, but it did not give me that essential x-factor which grabs you and slaps you around, so that when all is finished you need a moment to recover. There are many plus points, and I don't discount the possibility that I could be proved wrong on all these counts when viewed as an entire trilogy, but as a singular film Election falls into the trap so many foreign films do, excellent intentions, decent execution, and that is this film in a nutshell, it's decent. Don't expect a rip-roaring wild ride, expect a fairly entertaining trip, a leisurely drive through the world of the triads with acting that is superb but a story which is average, stunning visuals and clichéd endings. One review (from "Total Film" *insert raised eyebrow here*) calls this "unflinching brutality", and if you were expecting a whole lot more, it certainly can be.
- Jun 29, 2007