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  • This film really deserves more recognition than its getting. It really is a stunning and rich portrayal of blood ties, favours and allegiances within the crime world. The film is shot beautifully and delves into all you're classic crime themes such as betrayal and power. This film is a movie goers film, it requires attention and understanding and rewards fully in the end. It is the godfather of hong kong and is a welcome change rather than another wire frame fighting, martial arts epic which seems to be the major contribution to the cinema world from hong kong and china. It features an arrangement of great characters, actors and development although is fair to say I had to watch it twice just to nail what was happening with some of the characters due to their being so many interactions in the film. ALl in all 8/10 Great plot characters but there are characters that don't stand out enough and the music didn't really get me going and at times i felt it didn't sync well with the action(there is action by the way) so it loses some points for that.
  • The issue with IMDb in regards to foreign films such as 'Election' is that inevitably few have seen the film, fewer have chosen to put themselves in the firing line with a synopsis, and all will mark begrudgingly out of preference and favouritism rather than critical accuracy. Was I expecting more from this film? Given that it was on offer, I had finance at hand, and I purchased with intent to merely fill up my East Asian collection, no. Given that the film was Johnny To, was an official Cannes selection and had won as many awards as the impeccable Infernal Affairs, the answer is a resounding yes.

    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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    If I were to use one word to describe director Johnny To, the word that comes to mind immediately is "dependable". Unquestionably the most prolific director in Hong Kong today, To brings something new to each movie he makes and yet maintains a consistent quality. My personal favourite of his work will always be "The Mission" (1999), the pinnacle of a stylish "gun" movie surrounding an ensemble of fascinating characters.

    "Election" (or "Hek she wui", the underworld) which competed in Cannes earlier this year is another good one from To, following his traditional crisp, no-nonsense and unpretentious direction. The story line is simple. There are no cheap contrivances at unnecessarily convoluted plot or vulgar pretence at unrealistic depth here. Just a solid, well thought out and beautifully executed movie that is thoroughly enjoyable.

    The story focuses on the fight between two top contenders for the top job overseeing a loose confederation of localised gangs. The cut-throat political power struggle depicted in the movie may easily be found in a large corporation. One need not get too hung up on figuring out the various vying gangs, in three generations, covering two territories (Hong Kong and Guangzhou). You pretty well know that when everything has been said and done, you would have seen allegiance, change of allegiance, confrontations, compromises, loyalties, double-crossings and betrayals, and everything in between. Just sit back and enjoy the mounting tension in a well-told story and, even more so, the rich pageantry of colourful characters.

    And what characters we have! Leading the pack is the "most wanted" star for the role of underworld bosses, Simon Yam. He plays soft spoken, mild-mannered Lok, who seems almost too nice to be where he is, until……(well, let me not spoil the fun). Leung Ka-fai demonstrates convincingly what an accomplished actor he is. In polarised contrast to the ageing, fate-beaten photographer he played in "Everlasting Regret" (which was actually shot AFTER "Election"), he portrayed Lok's nemesis "Big D" with such explosive intensity that not even the automatic choice for such characters, Francis Ng Chun-yu, could have done any better.

    Those who are disappointed because the supporting characters have no depth have entirely missed the point. These personas are there to enrich and propel the story, not for character studies. There are Louis Koo as the cool, up-and-coming contender, Lam Suet as the upholder of traditional values of loyalty, deadly fiery Cheung Ka-fai, efficient and seasoned Lam Ka-tung, all of whom will undoubtedly have a significant role in the sequel (yes! And probably more). Wong Tin-lum, who purportedly had to be cajoled by director To into not wearing his suspenders to keep his trousers around his massive waistline, plays the revered old gangster who tries to settle the dispute between Lok and Big-D. David Chiang (not credited) is the police chief who rounds up the rivalling gangs so that they can carry out their negotiation in the secured comfort of the prison cells. And there's more, much more.

    "Election" did not bring home any prizes from Cannes, but certainly deserves its spot there earlier this year.
  • This film has its upsides. It's shot with style, the characters all feel unique and identifiable, the action scenes are really gruesome, violent and stylistic, the pacing is a bit slow yet it feels just right and in the end the story isn't half bad either. Unfortunately the movie has some flaws as well. The characters feel unique, but there's way too many of them. It took me easily two thirds of the film to just start recognizing different faces from one another and the movie didn't exactly help, as the two main characters were quickly referenced by name, but it wasn't made clear just who they were on the screen. Perhaps I had extra difficulty differentiating Asian faces from one another as a Caucasian, but the problem still remains.

    Aside from that there weren't any major problems. The story itself was a bit weird, as there were many scenes where the movie just seemed to end - or at least it felt like it would be a suitable ending - but then the movie just continued. The actual ending was a bit surprising, but not in a bad way, really. Especially when one realized that the movie actually has a sequel.

    All in all, it's a good gangster film. The actors are talented, the action works and the story is captivating.
  • pavithran15 January 2006
    Personally, I find the movie to be quite a good watch. It outlines the actual situation of triads in Hong Kong and gives the viewer a glimpse of how triads are organized.

    Not only that, it also shows the viewer how the Hong Kong police control the triad situation and why the police don't just go all out and wipe out triads.

    Overall, the movie is rather violent due to the gangland methods of killings & torture. Nevertheless, the movie stays true to the real world, thus the violence on screen is just a reflection of what really happens.

    I'd recommend this movie to any Triad/Mafia movie fan. Another good watch would be Dragon Squad. That movie has more guns than this, as in this movie there's more knives than guns (in fact I don't remember seeing a single gun).
  • Election marks the 2nd trial society theme movie directed by Johnnie To.

    To marvellously casted Simon Yan and Tony Leung Kar Fai as Lok and Big D, as the two trial members who were chosen as candidates for the position of chairman for Ho Sing society, a 100 year old trial society.

    While Lok is a man who keeps his cool at all times, Big D is not only impatient, but also thinks that he is on top of everything. Lok was chosen as the next chairman for 2 years. To have the total control of the gang, the newly elected chairman must be passed down with a Dragon Baton, which represents power and authority. Big D was extremely unhappy with the results that he was not chosen to be the next chairman after paying a handsome figure of bribes to the council members. He ordered his man to get the Baton before it falls onto the hands of Lok.

    While Big D is getting the Baton, Lok has other plans for him.

    This is one of the trial society theme movies where not much bloodshed is needed. Johnnie To puts the greed of the human beings in the movie, where bloodshed is commonly used in other trial society theme movies to show how the greed of human beings can caused the death or the downfall of one. However, no single bullet is used, hardly any gangfights are involved in Election. It's the battle of the wits that makes Election stands out of the rest.

    Apart from Maggie Shiu, the only actress in Election with less than 5 lines to talk in the whole movie, masculinity rules the whole movie. Louis Koo and Nick Cheung, who was seen in To's previous film, are casted as an undercover cop and a gangster who sold his life to the gang respectively. Together with some of the veteran actors making their appearance in the film and the excellent script, it makes the only HK movie to represent Cannes Fil Festival 2005.

    Election has hardly failed any critics who wants an different trial society theme movie.
  • Cynicism and sarcasm can be wonderful tools in the creative arts, but when wielded with all the finesse of a five year old, amount to little more than an irritation in the best of situations. To wit, Johnnie To's very long-anticipated and touted Election, the first major HK release in a sizeable chunk of time to receive the city's hallowed Category III rating. Roughly the equivalent of NC-17, Cat III cinema outings come with numerous bells and whistles, like warnings on ticket stubs and special bulletin-type alerts before the show starts. Naturally, every such product gets an added buzz doing the rounds on its behalf, probably helping to generate bigger box office intakes.

    Surprisingly or not, there's nothing even remotely mature about Election, and to all intents and purposes it's almost identical in the gruesome department to every other crime flick done in Hong Kong over recent years, with the Infernal Affairs series coming to mind. We went in there anticipating substantive violence, nudity, colorful language and the like, only to be sorely disappointed, leading us to conclude someone managed to convince the ratings board to stick a handily sensational label on Election, immediately putting it apart from the competition (most of which falls under tamer categories). This type of cynical, conniving trickery does not win points with anyone gullible enough to build up expectations, and disappointment indeed featured prominently among members of the audience of which we were a part.

    But that aside, Election's in no way a bad triad movie. It manages to feel like a well-researched documentary more than a fast-paced action campaign, and distinguishes itself via several relatively penetrating insights into the backstage dealings involved in secret society culture. However, once you're done appreciating the film's underworld history and politics lesson the flaws begin to surge.

    First among them is the pacing, slow and dry to the point of making it hard for non-enthusiasts to sit through Election wriggle or nod free. Furthermore, To's penchant for low key film-making grates quickly when you're looking for the dazzle and glitter of blockbuster artistry. Although expensive to make, Election appears grainy and cheap, not a problem for serious pundits but unhelpful in winning over less in-depth mainstream laypersons.

    Another hiccup comes from the plot proper, where not much transpires, really. Simon Yam's himself again, bottled up and ready to explode behind his perpetual smirk. He plays Lok, a mover and shaker in the Wo Sing triad society, an organization dating back to Ming loyalists and their fight against the Qing. Lok squares off against Big D (Tony Leung Ka Fai in his third major role this year), a flamboyant mobster with less of an ethical composition, who believes in vastly more underhanded tactics than his rival's. The two compete for votes in a societal election where so-called uncles choose the next chairman. The movie makes a few references to political issues affecting HK in its dealings with mainland China, and perhaps fancies itself a simile of sorts. This attempt is commendable and duly noted.

    Other than that, we must conclude the movie to be lukewarm and too anemic for its own good. Lok and Big D's struggle lacks a compelling impetus, and their supporting cast brings little to warrant applause. Henchmen like Louis Koo as suave and sophisticated mob captain Jimmy miss the sweet spot by a mile, and even usually apt Lam Suet (who ruled in One Nite in Mongkok among many others) isn't up to par. There's also a whole cavalcade of mafia old timers, hence the uncles, who're slightly more interesting, not least because of names like Uncle Cocky and Whistle. Chief among this posse is Uncle Teng, played by Wong Tin Lam. The latter, of course, provides a link to two of Johnnie's better expeditions, i.e. classic The Mission and eerie nighttime police drama PTU. Both of these older projects put Election to shame, and neither enjoyed even remotely as much fanfare and exposure. Lam Ka Tung (infernal Affairs, World without Thieves) fares better as efficient soldier Kun, but most everyone else in supportive roles does not rise above average.

    Much of Election revolves around the two antagonists' search for a mythical baton, the Wo Sing's symbolic talisman without which no chairman can ever be accepted, and although this pursuit seems trivial it at least provides the film with an excellent panorama of HK as the search goes on, from rural border area Lo Wu to teeming night district Tsim Sha Tsui, so at least we have that.

    Not much else, though. For all the trumpets and heralding, Election's III sticker produces no discernible results. There's little blood, not a single gunshot rings out, and even the language, while somewhat triad-authentic, shies away from the mature with only two or three exceptions. And for Pete's sake, machetes can't be taken seriously any more in something billed as the biggest hope for HK crime blockbusters, a problem Infernal Affairs also faced. This lack of gunplay presents a huge heartbreak for To fans weaned on bullet-tastic magnum opus The Mission. A couple of moments spell doom for Election's adult contingent when violence is toned down ludicrously (two people magically survive being rolled downhill in crates repeatedly), and even climax made us chuckle at the lack of red sauce. There are two close-up death scenes, but they're nothing to faint over. We were also hoping for a bit of the hanky panky, and except for one big tease there was none of that.

    However, since both Andy On and lovable Cherrie Ying are credited yet never seen in the film, we surmise an uncut edition may be forthcoming on DVD to rectify many of the above mentioned faults. But then, wouldn't that be cynical?

    Rating: * * *
  • The essential appeal of gangster films lies in the notion of the inter-linking of depravity and honour. And honour is arguably the more fictitious of the two qualities: it is said that after 'The Godfather' was made, real life mafioso started imitating Don Corleone. Even so, mafia chic has more or less been done to death, which is where (to a western audience) a Hong Kong gangster movie, like Johnny To's 'Election'; can be refreshing. Some of the guff about ancient codes may be hokum, but it's a fresh kind of hokum, and this is a tough, well made thriller, the story of the rivalry of two gangster leaders, the wild Big D. and his more thoughtful rival Lok, who (in 'Godfather'-terms) is more of a Michael Corleone figure. One thing I liked was how To makes effective use of quiet but driving background music during the more obviously thrilling parts of the movie, but lets its grim conclusion play out in silence. But overall, it's not in the same league as 'The Godfather', and the principal flaw is that there's no character sufficiently conflicted to win your sympathy. Lok may be an appealing family man in contrast to Big D., but although shocking, the ending lacks the surprise of the ending of 'The Godfather'; indeed, I personally think the 'The Godfather Part II', though a very skillful film, also suffered from the problem that the audience is unable to maintain the necessary illusions about its protagonist prior to the end. 'The Godfather' also had a plot that was not just detailed, but made exact sense, whereas the story in 'Election' is more superficial. I still enjoyed watching it; but the real Hong Kong 'Godfather' is arguably 'Infernal Affairs'.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Forget all the Hollywood crap about Chinese gangsters with black suits.. that's a myth.

    Election series (I & II) focuses on a Triad branch that has a unique election system compared to other organized crime groups.

    Initiation, membership, and loyalty within their ranks is completely different from other crime groups.

    What is amazing about this movie is that it shows us life in each member.. from low rank to the top level; and the length (as well as limits) one would go to take the big seat.

    As one Dutchman once told me about the Triads in Rotterdam; "Menthol". I could also use the same term in this case !

    The story, the plot, the acting.. was very realistic in my point of view.. No director ever produced an astonishing piece of work that's based on Chinese Triads as good as this. Wonderful work.

    2nd series is even nicer. The story is more lovely. I can't say more, you watch. =)

    For those putting low scores on this.. they probably are Hollywood goons who are paid to write these reviews so people can admire Hollywood's own production of similar movie plot.
  • This film has some great directing with its suspense theme and its few dramatic moments and also some great first class acting. Johnny To is a great and wonderful director. The cast was pretty neat too. But I found that there were major problems with the script. First of all the story doesn't seem to develop that much and isn't that interesting at all. The beginning was good and simple with them talking about the election and stuff. Then while it progressed all I saw was some people talking about how the election was going and stuff. There was no drama at all except for some scenes where they kidnapped a few members of the enemy elective party for ransom and also don't forget the shock that happened in the end which I won't reveal for spoiler reasons. The only that kept me moving in the film was some of the interesting facts they gave us about Triad street life in the movie. It's a movie I would watch once and never watch it again because it deserves some awards and recognitions for great acting and directing but should be laughed at for terrible story line.
  • This isn't as violent as I was expecting which makes the violent scenes appear all the more brutal and effective.

    There are a lot of twists and turns and back stabbing and double crossing all the way through the film making it hard to know who's side a particular character is on.

    The plot is pacey with some good dialogue and character development and gives an interesting view of the workings of the Triad gang it follows.

    The violence when it comes is brutal, no guns or martial art scenes with special effects, this is believable in your face violence and for all the dialogue you are never allowed forget that the Triad is a violent criminal organisation.

    The ending is surprising but thoroughly consistent and believable.
  • eraser06630 January 2006
    Well I was a little bit disappointed after I saw this movie. I discovered Infernal Affairs a few months ago and I really liked it. I was ready for another great triad movie but this one didn't do it for me.

    I don't mind slow developing movies, but I thought this one didn't have enough to keep me interested. The story is alright, but not excellent. I thought the characters were just OK.

    I read a comment somewhere that warned about the violence.. There's 1 scene a little bit violent, but it's not really a big deal.

    I didn't really understand what was going on exactly in the end. That certainly didn't make the experience worth it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    First off, I must say that I made the mistake of watching the Election films out of sequence. I say unfortunately, because after seeing Election 2 first, Election seems a bit of a disappointment. Both films are gangster epics that are similar in form. And while Election is an enjoyable piece of cinema... it's just not nearly as good as it's sequel.

    In the first Election installment, we are shown the two competitors for Chairman; Big D and Lok. After a few scenes of discussion amongst the "Uncle's" as to who should have the Chairman title, they (almost unanimously) decide That Lok (Simon Yam) will helm the Triads. Suffice to say this doesn't go over very well with competitor Big D (Tony Leung Ka Fai) and in a bid to influence the takeover, Big D kidnaps two of the uncles in order to sway the election board to his side. This has disastrous results and heads the triads into an all out war. Lok is determined to become Chairman but won't become official until he can recover the "Dragon Head Baton", a material representation of the Chairman's power. The current Chairman, Whistle (Chung Wang) has hidden the baton somewhere in mainland China and the race is on to see who can recover it first.

    Much of the film is devoted to the recovery of the Baton. As both aspiring leaders search for it they must dodge cops and opposite sides, which leads into one of the stand out scenes in Election, which involves an underling named Jet (Nick Cheung), a machete, and lots of bad guys. Nick Cheung's presence is attention grabbing to say the least... I wonder if this influenced director Johhnie To in any way while making the second Election, as he does deliver more of Jet's character in the sequel.

    While Nick Cheung gives a scene stealing performance, I must not fail to give due to the rest of the film's actors. Election has a great ensemble cast with well thought out performances that are both subtle and impacting. Simon Yam is his usually glorious self and the film also benefits from heavyweight HK actors like Louis Koo, Tony Leung Ka Fai, and the under-appreciated Suet Lam. There really aren't any weak links in the acting and one could easily believe that they're watching real gangsters.

    Although the performances are great, one of the most impressive things about Election is Johnnie To's eye for the camera. There are some truly striking shots in the film and it goes without saying that To definitely knows how to frame his shots, as the viewer is treated to a series of innovative and quite brilliant camera placings and angles. All of which makes Election, above all, a great looking film.

    My issues with the film arises mostly out of the shear amount of characters involved in Election. It gets a bit hard to follow because the film is so full of characters that aren't integral to the plot. While the sequel opts to focus more on the two candidates, the first Election offers the election process as a whole with tons of Uncles, underlings, and police officers crowding the storyline. Maybe the film would have worked better if it would have been a bit longer with more time dedicated to the inner workings of the Triad, or if Director Johnnie To would have funneled down the necessary elements and expounded on them more.

    Bottom Line- All in all, this is a wonderfully brutal film with a great cast, excellent direction, and leisurely pacing that packs a punch. It's just a little more complicated than it needed to be.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Election is a Chinese mob movie, or triads in this case. Every two years an election is held to decide on a new leader, and at first it seems a toss up between Big D (Tony Leung Ka Fai, or as I know him, "The Other Tony Leung") and Lok (Simon Yam, who was Judge in Full Contact!). Though once Lok wins, Big D refuses to accept the choice and goes to whatever lengths he can to secure recognition as the new leader. Unlike any other Asian film I watch featuring gangsters, this one is not an action movie. It has its bloody moments, when necessary, as in Goodfellas, but it's basically just a really effective drama. There are a lot of characters, which is really hard to keep track of, but I think that plays into the craziness of it all a bit. A 100-year-old baton, which is the symbol of power I mentioned before, changes hands several times before things settle down. And though it may appear that the film ends at the 65 or 70-minute mark, there are still a couple big surprises waiting. Simon Yam was my favorite character here and sort of anchors the picture.

    Election was quite the award winner at last year's Hong Kong Film Awards, winning for best actor (Tony Leung), best picture, best director (Johnny To, who did Heroic Trio!!), and best screenplay. It also had nominations for cinematography, editing, film score (which I loved), and three more acting performances (including Yam).
  • I always thought this would be a long and boring Talking-Heads flick full of static interior takes, dude, I was wrong. "Election" is a highly fascinating and thoroughly captivating thriller-drama, taking a deep and realistic view behind the origins of Triads-Rituals. Characters are constantly on the move, and although as a viewer you kinda always remain an outsider, it's still possible to feel the suspense coming from certain decisions and ambitions of the characters. Furthermore Johnnie To succeeds in creating some truly opulent images due to meticulously composed lighting and atmospheric light-shadow contrasts. Although there's hardly any action, the ending is still shocking in it's ruthless depicting of brutality. Cool movie that deserves more attention, and I came to like the minimalistic acoustic guitar score quite a bit.
  • I had interest in watching Election (2005) because of all the excellent commentaries I had heard about it.Now,after watching this film,I can say it's not bad but it disappointed me.Let's see the bad points from this movie.I felt the story from this movie excessively confusing.I always appreciate narrative complexity on a movie but what I do not appreciate is when the narrative complexity becomes very confusing and that's what happened to this movie.I thought the story should have been told in a more clear way without losing the narrative complexity.I also felt this movie has some redundant moments which do not add too much to the story.In summary,I think a more clear story and more focus on the editing would have made a much better movie.Now,I have to mention some positive elements.With some exceptions,the film did not bore me and I found interesting the implicit comparison this movie makes between gangsters and politicians.But,in spite of that positive elements,this movie did not result too satisfactory in my case.Maybe,I was expecting too much,I do not know.I think I can recommend this movie but I do not think I can recommend it with much enthusiasm.
  • Every two years, a new movie comes to prove that Hong-Kong cinema is well alive and still has a word to say to the international world of cinema. In 2001, "Time and Tide" reelected Tsui Hark as one most inventive director alive, in 2003, "Infernal Affairs" proved that HK thrillers are still better than American ones, and now, Johnny To wants to be elected as the new ambassador of HK cinema, as the selection of his two last movies at the international Cannes film Festival proves it. But if "Election" is a good and entertaining movie, it doesn't really bring anything new to the genre.

    Every two years, one of the most important triad of Hong-Kong has to elect his boss, through a democratic way, where the older decides who can run and win the election. The movie deals with one of this election, which soon becomes a death fight between the two main candidates : the calm and cold-hearted Lok (magistraly interpreted by Simon Yam) and the crazy and dangerous Big D (Tony Leung Ka Fai). Everything that could help to win the election is now permitted : from corruption to torture, and nothing will be spared.

    So the film is quite enjoyable, for it's always nice to see a classical and well done HK triad movie. It really looks like a mid-nighties HK polar, from its atmosphere (and particularly the photography and the direction, with a camera always moving) to its actors. The main influences are still Melville and Coppola, with maybe a new touch of Kitano here (for the character of Big D.) 1997 finally didn't affect too much the way Hong-Kong makes movies, and although we knew it for some time now, it's always a pleasure to have a confirmation.

    But the problem is that "Election" really lacks of originality, where Tsui Hark brought some crazy experimental elements and "Infernal Affairs" a more realist tone, "Election" didn't really bring anything new. And if the movie is realist and even didactic (you learn a lot about the triad rituals and the way it works while you're watching it), it also lacks of action and tension. Of course, there is one big fight scene (with knives, blades and foots : you won't find any elaborated John Woo's style gunfight in this film : for there is absolutely no gun in it !) it is quite short and rather confused. And there almost no dramatic tension in it : a long scene shows a sort of relay to catch a scepter, which will decided the winner of the election, and as no real suspense in it (even if it's quite fun to watch).

    And one last thing I didn't really appreciate about the movie is its photography, which is very dark (and by dark I mean dark : you sometimes can't see anything but a black screen with a point of light somewhere very far). This style, which is familiar to Johnny To - he uses it in PTU for instance - doesn't really help the narration, which is already a little complicated, especially in the beginning of the movie, when you're not well aware of all the relations between the characters and of the triad complex rituals. Fortunatly, this problems will almost all be erased in the sequel of the film, "Election 2", which is definitely worst seeing.
  • The first of two films by Johnny To, this film won many awards, but none so prestigious as a Cannes Golden Palm nomination.

    The Triad elects their leader, but it is far from democratic with the behind the scenes machinations.

    Tony Leung Ka Fai (Zhou Yu's Train, Ashes of Time Redux) is Big D, who plans to take the baton no matter what it takes, even if it means a war. Well, war is not going to happen as that is bad for business. Big D will change his tune or...

    Good performances by Simon Yam, Louis Koo and Ka Tung Lam (Infernal Affairs I & III), along with Tony Leung Ka Fai.

    Whether Masons, made men in the Mafia, or members of the Wo Sing Society, the ceremonies are the same; fascinating to watch.

    To be continued...
  • Johny To makes here one of his best style exercises, making a strong film with a good Yakuza's story. The election of the new Yakuza's boss is the beginning of a war inside the organization.

    In my opinion the violence is wise used in the context, making a very strong gangs film. I specially love the way he tells the history, moving around all the roles inside the Yakuza's family, and making that we see the violence, like the only way they have to solve their problems...

    Talking about, the technical aspects, the film is a good example of paused, rythmic and planified way of shooting a film. One of the Hong Kong Films of the year. Is like Infernal affairs, but without the easy action-violence scenes, and the confused storyline. Strongly recommended to all Asian films lovers.

    (sorry for my English, better do in Spanish lol)
  • There can be no denying that Hak Se Wui (Election in English) is a well made and well thought out film. The film uses numerous clever pieces of identification all the time playing with modernity yet sticking to tradition – a theme played with throughout the film Where John Woo's Hong Kong films are action packed and over the top in their explosive content as seen in Hard Boiled (1992) and when Hong Kong films do settle down into rhythms of telling the story from the 'bad' point of view, they can sometimes stutter and just become merely unmemorable, a good example being City on Fire (1987).

    Election is a film that is memorable for the sheer fact of its unpredictable scenes, spontaneous action and violence that are done in a realistic and tasteful (if that's the right word) manner as well as the clever little 'in pieces' of film-making. It's difficult to spot during the viewing but Election is really constructed in a kind of three act structure: there is the first point of concern involving the actual election and whoever is voted in is voted in – not everyone likes the decision but what the Uncles say, goes. The second act is the retrieving of the ancient baton from China that tradition demands must be present during the inauguration with the final third the aftermath of the inauguration and certain characters coming up with their own ideas on how the Triads should and could be run. Needless to say; certain events and twists occur during each of the three thirds, some are small and immaterial whereas some are much larger and spectacular.

    Election does have some faults with the majority coming in the opening third. Trying to kill off time surrounding an election that only takes a few minutes to complete was clearly a hard task for the writers and filmmakers and that shows at numerous points. I got the feeling that a certain scene was just starting to go somewhere before it was interrupted by the police and then everyone gets arrested. This happens a few times: a fight breaks out in a restaurant but the police are there and everyone is arrested; there's a secret meeting about the baton between the Triads but the police show up and everyone gets arrested; some other Triads are having a pre-election talk but the police show up and guess what? You know.

    Once the film gets out of that rut that I thought it would, it uses a sacred baton as a plot device to get everybody moving. The baton spawns some good fight scenes such as the chasing of a truck after it's been hotwired, another chase involving a motorbike and a kung-fu fight with a load of melee weapons in a street – the scenes are unpredictable, realistic and violent but like I said, they are in a 'tasteful' manner. Where Election really soars is its attention to that fine detail. When the Triads are in jail, the bars are covered with wire suggesting they're all animals in cages as that's how they behave on the outside when in conflict. Another fine piece of attention to detail is the way the Uncles toast using tea and not alcohol, elevating themselves above other head gangsters who'd use champagne (The Long Good Friday) and also referencing Chinese tradition of drinking tea to celebrate or commemorate.

    Election is a good film that is structured well enough to enjoy and a film that has fantastic mise-en-scene as you look at what's going on. Some of the indoor settings and the clothing as well as the buckets of style that is poured on as the search and chase for the baton intensifies. The inauguration is like another short film entirely and very well integrated into the film; hinting at Chinese tradition in the process. I feel the best scene is the ending scene as it sums it up perfectly: two shifty characters fishing and debating the ruling of the Triads all the while remaining realistic, unpredictable and violent: in a tasteful manner, of course.
  • It seems like more consideration has gone into the IMDb reviews of this film than went into the source.

    Here's a review without pretensions:

    Just when you think nothing is going to happen, it doesn't.

    Dress it up any way you like, this is a dull film, full of unengaging characters doing very little of interest.

    One to put on if you want to convince an impressionable emo chick that you're like, so deep, man.

    Not something to watch for your own pleasure though.



  • I opted to see the film at the recent Dubai Film Festival because it had been selected to the Cannes film festival's prestigious Competition section. I was surprised that Cannes could be so off the mark in judging quality.

    The film, some reviewers, have noted does not have too much of gunfire--but the inherent violence is repulsive. Imagine killing your enemy/competitor in front of your young son..or forcing someone to eat a porcelain spoon to prove loyalty. There are some hints of the contrasting Corleone sons in Copolla's "Godfather" that seem to resurface here in this Chinese/Hong Kong film but the quality of the two are as distinctly different as chalk and cheese.

    This film is only recommended for violence junkies..there is no great cinema here. At best it might be considered to be better than the usual Run Run Shaw production for production values.
  • "Election" showcases all that are exceptional about the Hong Kong film industry in the past 20 years or so; old thespians, A-cast list and upcoming actors join hands to make this grim but entertaining movie. The film seems calm on the surface, but there are pockets of violence and its powerful indictment of the Triads must be read between the lines. It's talky, but the acting is first-rate: cool and collected Lok (Simon Yam), cocky and violent Big D (Tony Leung), the frustrated police superintendent (David Chiang).

    Many Western mainstream audience think that Mafia and Triad movies ought to be filled with killings, gunshots and bloodshed. There is certainly violence here, but Johnny To is more interested in dismantling the oaths of "honor" and "brotherhood" underpinning these secret societies.
  • No action, No style only long scenes with boring dialogues
  • Johnnie To crime drama surrounding the hierarchy of Triad family

    Follows the election process of two lead candidates: Big D - a veteran, tough, aggressive, power driven; and Lok - calm, respectable, more giving, family oriented.

    Big D pays off Uncles to support him , and when the voting comes up short things get testy
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