Election 2 (2006)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-12-01
Summary: Too stylish by half
The very stylish set design, cinematography and direction of “Triad Election” overshadows its rudimentary plot and lack of character development. It looks great—often too great, such as when the camera looks down a highly polished wooden spiral staircase. When Lok kicks Uncle Teng down the stairs to his death it has less impact than the previous “look at me” shot of the circular staircase. Louis Koo is able to kill people, grind them into dog food and survive several assassination attempts without once losing the knife-like part in his hair. Simon Yam sleepwalks through a role that didn’t demand anything more lively and the almost complete immobility of the Uncles (particularly Wong Tin-Lam, for whom it has become second nature and, possibly, necessary) was fitting given their lack of action.

The main theme of “Triad Election” is a Buddhist/existentialist hell. Jimmy makes a glancing and vulgar reference to this when he tells Lik to get smarter in his next life. But Jimmy is the one caught in a dreadful karmic destiny of hatred, deceit, fear and suspicion. He despises his life as a gangster (although he does show a real aptitude for it) and wants to go straight—to become a respected ancestor. His children will be doctors and lawyers and he will be free of the taint of crime. His life so far makes this impossible which he is told by an implacable PRC official. Jimmy is going to be the permanent head to the Wo Sing in Hong Kong. The title of chairman will remain in his family so his children will have the same curse and suffer in the same way.

Jimmy, his allies and his rivals are condemned to never achieve enlightenment but to be stuck in a samsara of continuous rebirth, death and decay. They will suffer forever and their hell will begin here on earth. Which is fine—Jimmy is a loathsome creature capable of astonishing acts of barbarity. Lok is happy to pile up bodies throughout the SAR in order to stay as chairman, a step he vowed not to take when elected and which violates the tradition of Wo Sing.

A secondary theme is the continued despoliation of the Chinese countryside by the booming industrial and especially the export oriented economy. Jimmy wants to operate within the PRC so he can build a superhighway through a rural area and cut the time of a trip to Hong Kong (and its port) by 20%. It is only at the very end of the movie, when the PRC official goes to the highest point in the area, a place where Jimmy is going to build his home, that we see the beauty of the symmetrical rice paddies, perfectly shaped and lushly green, stretching to the horizon. This pastoral idyll will be bulldozed so that Jimmy’s road can go through.

Watching any 20 minutes of “Triad Election” will give the viewer a complete sense of the movie. It is always hyper-stylish with moody colors, significant shadows and flashy camera work and it is also devoid of any real human content. It isn’t only that there aren’t any characters to root for, there aren’t really any to not root against.

Recommended only for its look
Reviewer Score: 5