Less two separate movies than one enticing epic split in half, Johnnie To's Election and Election 2 blend in a political subtext that is nothing short of courageous. At first, the tapestry of Election seems like that of any Hong Kong gangster movie, as it follows two triad members, the calm deliberate Lok (Louis Koo) and the hair-trigger personality Big D (Tony Leung Ka-fai), who both covet the position of chief of the Wo Sing clan, a post that is decided by democratic elections every two years. Their respective campaigns are complicated when the symbol of the clan, the Dragon's Head Baton, goes missing, a sign that the traditional ways are moving in an uncertain direction. Election 2 takes place two years later, but this time it's businessman/gangaster Jimmy (Louis Koo) who wants to run the show. But there's a new boss in China, and he's the one who's really pulling the strings.
Once one realizes that To's movies are a bold attack on China's political interference in post-1997 Hong Kong, after the territory was handed over to the mainland, what at first seemed rather superficial begins to take on a more complex hue. Big D, who comes across as an excessive cartoon in the first movie, can now be viewed as an effective representation of Hong Kong's somewhat corrupt and messy democracy. By contrast, the more subtle Jimmy, hiding behind an “honest” capitalist facade in Election 2 , is the apt puppet of the sinister Chinese state apparatus. Even the Hong Kong police, so ubiquitous a presence in Election , where they are determined to keep public order, have receded into the background in Election 2 as they recognize the new reality. Guided by To's elegant camera moves, less visceral than most Hong Kong filmmakers, the Election movies put a fresh, intriguing spin on the usual cinematic gangster motifs.
Cast: Louis Koo, Simon Yam, Nick Cheung, Cheung Siu-fai, Lam Ka-tung and Tony Leung Ka-fai
Director: Johnnie To
Screenwriters: Yau Nai-hoi and Yip Tin-shing
Producers: Dennis Law and Johnnie To
Genre: Dramatic thriller; Cantonese- and Mandarin-language, subtitled
Running time: 101 min., 92 min.
Release date: April 25, 2007 NY