Director: Johnnie To
Writer: Yau Nai Hoi, Yip Tin Shing
Producer: Dennis Law, Johnnie To
Cast: Louis Koo, Simon Yam, Nick Cheung, Gordon Lam, Lam Suet, Wong Tin Lam, Yau Yung, Eddie Cheung, Mark Cheng, Andy On, Cheung Miu Haau, Cheung Wing Cheung
Running Time: 92 min.
As much as I’ve disparaged Louis Koo’s acting in movies like “Triple Tap” and “Accident,” no one can take his performance in “Election 2” away from him. With this film, Koo found the role he was born to play – the well-dressed Triad playboy turned legitimate businessman, who is consistently in over his head in the dog-eat-dog worlds of organized crime and capitalism (and the movie will make you wonder which one is worse).
Picking up where the first “Election” left off, it is now the end of Simon Yam’s two year reign as Chairman of his Triad. Although Yam’s tenure brought success to many, it seems that Simon’s own earnings were eclipsed by Louis Koo’s bootleg DVD business. In a world where money is the ultimate sign of power and respect, this ensures that most of the Triad brothers want Louis to be the next Chairman. There’s just one problem – well, two problems: Louis doesn’t want to run for the position and Simon Yam will kill anyone that gets in the way of his second term. As much as he aspires to be a respectable businessman, Koo soon realizes that ‘every time he thinks he’s out, they pull him back in.’
From there, the story dovetails into “The Godfather”-esque levels of criminal scheming and machinations. There’s great pleasure to be had in watching several factions of the same Triad gang competing against each other, their plans intersecting and backfiring as Louis Koo manages to stay one step ahead of the competition. The centerpiece of the film is a daring rescue attempt staged in the broad daylight by Koo and his men, featuring a coffin on wheels and a bunch of giant knives. And yes, the “Election” films are more than a little reminiscent of “The Godfather” saga in many respects, but here each installment comes in under 100 minutes and director Johnnie To provides a distinctly Eastern take on the material.
In the hands of a gifted filmmaker like Johnnie To, who has spent more than a decade examining the lives of men in and around organized crime, the material is shaped into masterpiece. It’s difficult to imagine a better visual image to convey Louis Koo’s psychological state than the aerial shot To gives us about midway through the film: the camera looking down at the bloody dog pens and the long shadow cast by Koo. As good as the first “Election” was, the sequel improves upon it in every way. Both films are best viewed close together since “Election 2” truly builds on the relationships of the first installment.
With the sequel, Johnnie To delivers more action, more intrigue, and Louis Koo steps up to the plate to deliver the best performance of his career. It’s true that the Hong Kong film industry has frequently struggled to find its identity post-1997, but “Election 1 & 2” stand out as two of the best movies produced in HK during the past 12 years. To anyone developing a list of required viewing for Asian cinema, the “Election” saga surely deserves a place on it.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 8.5/10