Election Johnnie To

Election Johnnie To

In Election, a sprawling tale of gangland power struggle in Hong Kong, Johnnie To reclaims the glory of Hong Kong cinema gone by. While not channelling the balletic uber-violence of ’80s gangster masters like John Woo, Election goes a long way in reviving the flagging Hong Kong film industry. Every two years the Wo Shing Society, one of the oldest Triads (Chinese organised crime gangs), elects one of their younger bosses as chairman. This year the election is between level-headed Lok (the brilliantly subtle Simon Yam) and his polar opposite, the maniacally feral Big D (the versatile Tony Leung Ka Fai). When Big D’s bribes fail to make him chairman, he decides to machete tradition and take power by force. But once things kick off, Lok’s mild-mannered veneer is peeled back to reveal a cold, ruthless powerbroker willing to do whatever it takes to protect the Wo Shing Society. More a complex and densely plotted slow burn than an over-the-top opera of spraying bullets, Election features a huge cast of characters, each with their own motivation and role to play. The police want to avoid a messy gang war, "uncles” (big bosses) want to maintain the status quo and ambitious young gang members work their own angles trying to gain power. The film may be a little short on action and come across as slow and convoluted to some viewers but it pays off in the end with a grim resolution that lacks the heroic redemption of its Hollywood brethren. Comparisons to Infernal Affairs (remade by Scorsese as The Departed) and The Godfather Trilogy are both obvious and fair. Election is a dark, slick, intricately rewarding and instructive journey into the underbelly of Hong Kong’s triads. (Alliance Films)