Written by: John White on January 17th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 2005
Director: Johnny To
Cast: Simon Yam, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Louis Koo, Nick Cheung, Siu-Fai Cheung , Suet Lam, Ka Tung Lam, Tian-lin Wang
DVD released: December 20th, 2005
Approximate running time: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: III (Hong Kong)
Sound: DTS 6.1 Cantonese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese
DVD Release: Panorama
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC (Hong Kong)
Retail Price: HK$90
Synopsis: The Wo Sing society of Triads has held elections to elect a president for the last 100 years. This year the choice is between the calm shrewd single father Lok and the flamboyant arrogant Big D. When the “uncles” get together to decide Big D has paid for the allegiance of some and when this fact comes out the “uncles” decide to go for Lok. Learning he has lost, Big D pressures Whistle to hand over the Baton which represents the leadership to him. Thus begins a chase to mainland China with changing loyalties among the Triads. Meanwhile the police have locked up the chief players to avoid a gang war and Whistle has threatened to shop Big D to the police. Who will come out on top?
Election like Infernal Affairs is a production of some grandeur. It has an excellent cast, sumptuous photography and a plot about getting power. Johnny To has made an excellent call casting the huge presence of Leung alongside the more politic and underplayed Yam. When these characters finally bring matters to a head, Yam’s explosion is all the more shocking for his earlier restraint.
Films about gangsters run the risk of being too glossy and celebratory of their subjects. I find Scarface and The Godfather, to name two, to be almost gangster porn in the way they normalise this kind of behaviour. This charge can’t be levelled at Election as all the characters are obscene, lacking in integrity and even willing to murder in front of their children. This detached view of the film’s characters would normally be a challenge to the audience in retaining their interest but To directs the action so well and thrillingly that this lack of identification ceases to matter. Even when the lead characters finally seem to bond this unity is broken within minutes with the violent denouement.
Election is violent – Triads run whilst having a machete stuck in their back, someone’s wife is strangled using a shovel and one character has their head stomped by a boulder. The film also offers an explanation for these secret societies and compares them to the survivors of the Shaolin temple massacre as an example of how they are part of Chinese culture. Election is an excellent thriller that measures up to the earlier glories of John Woo and Ringo Lam.
Panorama have released two versions of the film with this being the single disc barebones version. The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen and the 2.35:1 aspect ratio looks right here. The film is obviously a very good print but the transfer isn’t marvelous as it seems too dark with grain in the darker sections.
The audio is wonderful with a great DTS track. The English subs are okay but a little literal – one character is referred to as “Uncle cripple” which seems rather unlikely.
The disc begins with a long advert for video games which is rather irritating before we get to the menu. There are trailers including one for Everlasting regret, the new Stanley Kwan film. The Panorama disc will be bettered as a presentation of this fine film, but if you are a fan of Asian crime films you will need a copy of this film sooner or later.