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Original Title:
Hak se wui yi wo wai kwai

Hong Kong 2006

Crime, Thriller, Drama

Johnnie To

Louis Koo
Nick Cheung
Mark Cheng
Simon Yam
You Yong
Cheung Mo-Hau
Lam Ka Tung
Cheung Siu-Fai
Lam Suet
Andy On
Wang Chung
Wang Tian-lin
Pan Yue-Tong
Tam Ping-Man

Election 2
aka Harmony is a Virtue

Story: Lok's (Simon Yam) two-year reign over the Wo-Sing triads is soon coming to an end. It's time again to find a new leader for this position. Kun (Lam Ka-Tung) is one of the competitors who is going for the chairman job, and he also meets the requirements for this job the best. However, this is only because Jimmy (Louis Koo) doesn't participate in the election. Jimmy would be the one that everyone would like to see as new chairman, including Uncle Teng (Wang Tian-lin). Unfortunately, Jimmy is just not interested and prefers to stay a simple business man, wanting to extend his influence in the professional, illegal dvd copying scene. Nonetheless, he changes his mind when he runs into Inspector Xi (You Yong) in Mainland China, because Xi seems to be willing to collaborate with the triads, but is unwilling to make a deal with Jimmy, since he has only a low position in the underground ranking. Since Jimmy wants to buy himself into the gigantic market of China in order for him to make even more profit and to ensure that he can provide his family with financial means, he now enters the election, too, as a competitor for the Wo-Sing chairman-job.
Lok really doesn't like the way everything unfolds and so he decides that he won't support his right hand Jet (Nick Cheung) for the chairman-job as planned, but instead enters the competition himself, again. Even if this means to go against triad traditions. Between Lok and Jimmy a complex chess game is set up and the two know how to play it. Both competitors are ready to soil their hands if it is necessary, as there will be only one left alive when the game is over...

Review: "Election" has been one of those movies where a sequel wasn't really looked forward to. The film surely had style, but its slow, almost somniferous pacing concerning the story-telling, and moreover the fact that you couldn't relate to any of the characters in this over-nihilistic world, made Johnnie To's work almost inaccessible, cold and frustrating. However, it didn't took long and To brought a sequel onto the big screen, which luckily isn't one of those money-making sequels, but instead adds to its predecessor's story and qualitywise works a whole lot better!
This time the movie's plot revolves around the younger generation in the triads. Lok takes a backseat, now, and we finally get to see more of the characters that engaged our interest in the first part already. Nevertheless, doing so director To stays true to his dark, gritty and cinematographic impressive style.

"Election 2" is a thriller, whose strengths lie in its tense atmosphere and complex, well-wrought story. Oftentimes the protagonists just sit around or talk, and yet these scenes can be quite tension-filled. This time even more than it was the case in the prequel, so that many of the more lengthy scenes aren't really boring or disruptive at all. That is because you always have to expect that all hell might be breaking loose any time. Still, the movie doesn't take the safe path and delivers nice action. Instead, as the story unfolds there are several nice twists and most of all scenes that are without equal in its brutality. These incredile bloody moments aren't just startling to watch, but also show us that the involved protagonists in this game are bound to certain crass game rules to win this heavy brain demanding battle. Especially Jimmy, who merely is aiming for the position as the new godfather, because he is eager to earn more money to provide his family with everything they need, is drawn into this vortex of violence. Nonetheless, that's not enough for us to sympathize with him, since he is entering this gritty world voluntarily. However, even in the end we somehow feel more close to him than we could ever have been to Lok. Lok had already lost any kind of sympathy in the first part when he proved to be the most reckless and cold-blooded among the triad members.

Maybe that's the reason why part two works so much better than the first. Jimmy stands for a new generation. He is only interested in the money and he doesn't really care about old traditions. He accepts and honors the old ways, but in the end he only cares about material things. He is a businessman through and through and he absolutely doesn't want to hide it, which makes him a more honest guy than Lok ever was. Lok actually was exactly the same kind of guy, but hid it skillfully behind a mask of the honorable and bound by tradition godfather aspirant with his own share of moral ideas.
Louis Koo stands in the movie's focus and his acting achievement, even if imbued with a certain amount of aloofness, is pretty good, so that we follow the road he takes with a sick kind of interest until he eventually becomes the monster we expected him to become. Nevertheless, when the battle is over we realize that everything he did was actually for his wife and their future children. So what kind of monster is he really?
There is also a very engaging scene between him and Nick Cheung, who sadly doesn't get enough screen-time. Jet has been sent to assassinate Jimmy, but it doesn't go the way it was planned. In the end everything gets more complicated than we might have expected and so we have to ask ourselves if the younger generation of the triads still has something left of what one could call a conscience or friendship...

Many familiar faces return to the screen, but most of them get only a little cameo-like appearance. This also includes Simon Yam, who seems a bit one-dimensional because of this. His side story with his son who wants to buy himself into a youth gang doesn't take any effect, either. The viewer can easily imagine where Johnnie To wanted to go with this insertion, but it would have worked a lot better if he had taken the time the introduce and weave this story thread a little bit more carefully.
To's movie mainly stands out because of its dark and gritty picture compositions. His great lighting technique, with which he enhances his pictures and which is already a trademark of him, draws a poignant and violent picture of Hong Kong, in whose underworld only the most witty and reckless gangsters have a chance to become successful. So it doesn't come as a surprise that everything happening on screen is more bloody and severe stuff than what we are used to see from To. The time when an assassination has been executed by a head shot or by cutting the victim's throat are long gone. Here, traitors are thrown into water with their hands and feet tied while being conscious, or they are bludgeoned to death before the eyes of every one else. This, at times, feels more brutal than what would have been necessary, but it becomes even worse when Jimmy dismembers one of Lok's men, hashes him and feeds him to his sheperd dogs while the others of Lok's gang have to watch this procedure. I can't remember the last time I've seen such a cruel and atrocious scene in a movie. Flower children and those who can't see any blood should avoid this movie like the plague, that's for sure.

Johnnie To is a master of subtle thrillers. Oftentimes he manages to advise his actors to just sit at a table, and only capturing the glances of the different parties he succeeds in building up such a high tension, that we get the feeling that the screen is just one second short of exploding. We once again get to see some of these great scenes, which make the movie also more entertaining than the prequel. At the same time, if you really want to, you can also read a bit more of a political aspect between the lines. The corrupt chinese policeman is just one of many examples. One thing that is for sure is, that To widens the picture he drew of the "Black Society", as the triads are called in chinese. The end is not really that shocking this time, but for this it's more sophisticated and all in all leads to more far reaching consequences, than the finale in the first part did. Jimmy almost becomes a dramatic character with whom, in the absence of anyone else, we somehow have to feel pity for. The road for a third part is paved, that's for sure. And this time we can even look forward to another sequel with pleasent anticipation.

Johnnie To is responsible for almost single-handedly keeping profound Hong Kong cinema alive. At least that's what one might have to think, if looking at any other movie coming out from the former British crown colony nowadays. So who cares if "Election 2" has many of the flaws of the first part, again? His milieu study is ruthless and has no place for any kind of heroes (or even anti-heroes) with whom we could sympathize with. Yet, fortunataly this time To's work is a lot more transparent, constructed a whole lot more coherent, and it offers way more subtle thrill and brutality which can actually add to the movie's quality. Of course, "Election 2" is once again packed with great actors and provides us with a great story. The movie is much more easier to access than the prequel and also succeeds in being enthralling. Moreover, it always has a surprise waiting for the viewer.
Nonetheless, if you thought that the first part was really bad, then you might not get your money's worth with this one, either. Anyway, nowadays it's either you are a To-fan or... you are not. Depends on you. As for my part, I am. And not without reason.

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