Publicity Stills of "Election"
(Courtesy from Eng Wah)

Festival De Cannes Official Selection Competition - 2005

Genre: Action/Drama
Director: Johnny To
Starring: Simon Yam, Louis Koo, Cheung Ka Fai, Tony Leung Ka Fai
RunTime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: Eng Wah
Rating: NC-16 (Some Violence)

Release Date: 20 October 2005

Synopsis :

The time has come, as it does every two years, for the senior members of Hong Kong’s oldest Triad, the Wo Shing Society, to elect a new chairman. Fierce rivalries emerge between the two eligible candidates. Lok, respected by the Uncles is the favourite to win. But his rival Big D
will stop at nothing to change this, including going against hundreds of years of Triad tradition and influencing the vote with money and violence.

When Wo Shing’s ancient symbol of leadership, the Dragon’s Heat Baton, goes missing, a ruthless struggle for power erupts and the race to retrieve the Baton threatens to tear Wo Shing in two. Can Wo Shing balance their traditional brotherhood ways with the cut-throat modern
world of 21st century business?

Movie Review:

The Triads and the Anti-Hero characters have defined themselves as being integral to Hong Kong movies, with the "A Better Tomorrow" series reining in the 80s, and the "Young and Dangerous" series holding court in the 90s. However, save for the Infernal Affairs trilogy in this decade so far, it seemed that the formula might be too tried and tested to come up with something innovative and different. We had a somewhat false start with Mob Sister earlier this year. What about Election?

Helmed by acclaimed director Johnny To, this movie explores the struggles of power within the literally translated Black Society, i.e. Triads. The Wo Shing Society is undergoing a leadership renewal, and the council of Uncles have to decide between two candidates, Lok (Simon Yam) and Big D (Tony Leung Kar Fai). Distinctly different personalities, each has their own strengths, and it is for the Uncles to decide to go with the calm and composed Lok, or the loud and highly volatile Big D.

Think of the triads as an organized and well run conglomerate, in the business of karaoke bars,
nightclubs, and various dens of Vice, with a board of directors (the council of Uncles), tasked with the responsibility of electing a new leader (chairman, CEO) amongst potential candidates, each with a different manifesto to bring the company to greater heights. It parallels the way legitimate businesses are run, and this in itself makes the film accessible to many in the working world.

Naturally, bribery, the asking of favours, and the making of promises are expected, as Big D tries hard to cement himself as the forerunner. Willing to forgo strong traditions which is a hallmark of the age old Wo Shing Society, Big D has half the mind to splinter away from Wo Shing, hence potentially crippling it and bringing about an intra-triad war.

A running parallel plot is the quest of both Lok's and Big D's men in the search of Wo Shing Society's heirloom, a wooden Dragon's Head, which is the artifact of the de-facto leader of the organization. Changing hands multiple times from its resting place in China to Hong Kong, the audience is kept at the edge of their seats with plenty of ambiguous side switches, not knowing who's playing for who, and what's in it for those who have in possession the Dragon's Head. With Wo Shing members in the thousands, it rings home the message that in every big organization, not everyone knows every other member, and this plot brought out the message vividly.

This movie relies heavily on screen veterans like Yam, Tony, Louis Koo, and a host of better known Hong Kong television actors, which is a good breather from the Gen-X / Gen-Y teenyboppers, to flesh out the roles. Yam was his usual calm and cool demeanour, as
contrasted to the over the top flamboyance that Tony brought to his role. Louis Koo plays the wildcard in the movie - little screen time, but owning one of the action sequences together with Nick Cheung Kar Fai.

While the buildup was excellent, this movie suffers from the Mutiple Ending Syndrome. Just when you thought that it's a wrap, there's a little bit of extra which propels the movie forward again, and again. Either of the earlier endings would have sufficed, but I guess the filmmakers wanted to put in a reminder message that Crime Does Not Pay, that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and I felt the slight twist at the end seemed to be there, just for this sole purpose.

Movie Rating: -

(Great behind the scenes look at the machinery behind the Triads, but let down by the
indecisive conclusion)

Review by Stefan Shih

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