As election time nears, current Triad chairman Lok (Yam) faces competition from his godsons. At the same time, Jimmy (Koo) looks to increase his business relations with mainland China.As election time nears, current Triad chairman Lok (Yam) faces competition from his godsons. At the same time, Jimmy (Koo) looks to increase his business relations with mainland China.As election time nears, current Triad chairman Lok (Yam) faces competition from his godsons. At the same time, Jimmy (Koo) looks to increase his business relations with mainland China.
The plot is somewhat unremarkable and predictable, but in this case its how the film is told that makes it stand apart. The underworld depicted by director Johnny To is populated by sullen, disaffected thugs in expensive suits, with no loyalties held sacred but to their insatiable greed. The isolation of these men, (and Louis Koo as Jimmy in particular), as they trade away the remaining scraps of their humanity is a chilling thing to behold. The lighting, music, and sparse sets all echo the overwhelming emptiness and dread radiated by these characters, excellently performed by an ensemble of talented actors. Characters carried over from the first film seem to have developed in the two year interim to Election 2, and have become much more realized than the rather thin caricatures of the original.
Johnny To also seems to have a better grasp of the subject; wisely opting for a more serious approach, he injects a political theme that elevates the material out of the typical power fantasy of gangster films. Although the film certainly has its share of violent scenes, they are a good deal less gory than the majority of "shock cinema" today, and somehow even more harrowing. One particularly chilling scene is almost completely silent, save the blood-freezing soundtrack's eerie drone. Presented in such icy fashion that it becomes savagely artistic, Election 2's violence will stay with you long after the credits run. Despite the fetishistic renditions of violence and Triad traditions, these power obsessed sociopaths are hardly glamorous; their quiet panic becoming palpable as the realization sets in that greed has condemned them all. It is a testament to the director's talent that even without a single likable character for the audience to root for; the film remains compelling right to the bitter end.
Election 2 is an uncompromising film; violent, serious, politically controversial, and spectacularly unsympathetic. It also depends in large part on the viewer having seen its prequel, a similar if inferior examination of the same subject and themes. It is also one of the most interesting crime dramas in some time. Special note must be given once again to the score, which raises the tension significantly, and gives it a unique flavor more akin to a horror movie than a gangster film. Johnny To has shaped a bleak monster out of the typical conventions of crime noir; it leaves the viewer with much food for thought on subjects many would find distasteful, but anyone with an interest in the shallow, ruthless underbelly of organized crime is recommended to give it a look.
- Oct 9, 2006