Election Volume 2 Review

The Film

Johnnie To's Election was a furiously plotted tale of modern gangsters fighting for political power. A story which pitted Tony Leung Ka Fai's nutjob mobster against Simon Yam's sly triad. As the film worked itself out, the overt and brutal lost out to the slick and Machiavellian. If there was any message in this, it was that the current day mob boss had to be an arch politician as much as a ruthless leader of men. The modern Lok may have had to make concessions and pacify his rival, but he also knew when to strip away the veneer of co-operation and apply naked violence to ensure his victory.

Election Volume 2 rejoins the story with Lok's term as chairman nearing its end and his successors circling. The obvious man to follow him is Jimmy, who has developed his own legitimate businesses and spread his success widely. Jimmy, though, wants out. He wants the dream of becoming rich and respectable and is planning his way out of the Wo Sing triad with the help of his mainland contacts. His best laid plans go out the window when he is set up by the mainland police who inform him that any business he wants to run will be stopped unless he becomes the new leader of the Wo Sing. His mind changed, Jimmy learns that the path to his dream of legitimacy is going to involve a lot of blood and overcoming the power hungry plans of Lok.

Undeniably this sounds a little Godfather ish, as Noel has pointed out before, with the reluctant gangster corrupted and set up by the world around him. Like Michael Corleone, he is almost press ganged into a life of violence, and once he is there he finds that his fate will be inescapable. Unlike the Godfather, the world that imposes karma on Jimmy is a very political one. Where the Godfather is set in families and domestic milieu, Election 2 is mired in the world of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong. Where Michael Corleone can't avoid the needs of his family, Jimmy can't avoid the machinations of the Chinese authorities. Where the sins of the father become those of the son , in Election 2 the arch plotter Lee finds himself over come by a power greater than him. Jimmy is China's man, and worse still, his progeny are condemned to carry on the world he has been ensnared by. The irony of democratic gangsters, that was the hook of Election, is ended with the Chinese imposition of a dynasty in Election 2 - now tell me that isn't an allegory!

If you enjoyed Election, you will find its sequel to be plotted more sparingly and with a more involving character arc for Jimmy than Lok enjoyed in the first part. The tight intercutting of tense scenes as we wait to see which group of gangsters will come out on top is present again, and there are some moments that actually improve on the original. Where in the first film, Tony Leung Ka Fai crated up victims and kicked them down a mountain, here Lee persuades Lok's bodyguards to follow him by attaching them to very hungry Alsatians in a kennel. In Election, Lok's young son witnessed his dad's murders and here he finds himself drawn into the world of gangs himself as further evidence of where all this violence leaves the children.
Johnnie To is possibly the most consistent director of crime thrillers on the planet at the moment, and this film showcases his talent further. Taut in its tension, excellent in its depiction of the world of triads, and with compelling competent actors who ensure that the action doesn't lose a sense of humanity or that character isn't drowned out by the sound of gunfire. Election Volume 2 continues the good work of the first film whilst deepening the story politically and playing out the tragedy of Jimmy. Entertaining and thrilling, and well worth your time.

The Disc

DVD companies should know by now what the ultimate no-nos are in distributing foreign films, and right next to standards conversions on this score is burnt in subs. I think you can tell from the screenshots accompanying this review that this is a good ish transfer, but the fact of burnt-in subs is a real let down which will convince many buyers to try out the Tartan US disc or the Panorama disc from Hong Kong first. For a film which is so darkly lit, the transfer has very good contrast and well calibrated colours and this is very sharp and in the original aspect ratio. Sound comes in a single Dolby 5.1 mix which is well mastered and free of distortion or imperfections, the superb score is present in the side and rear speakers throughout with dialogue coming from the front three speakers providing good depth and dimension - crucial with how much To moves the camera around his cast. The subwoofer track is well used in the car interiors and in the scenes in the kennel and overall this single sound option is pleasing to the ear. The burnt-in subs are white and generally sensible and error free. Because of the subs I have marked down the transfer and sound.

This is a single layer disc and barebones at that. The menu simply offers play and scene select options, and is a mixture of stills from the film animated in time with a sample of the soundtrack music.


I suppose you might buy this disc if you find it cheap and can only play UK discs, there are better options on the R3 and R1 discs so multi-region buyers will go elsewhere. As a rental to a newbie to Johnnie To, there will be a lot to enjoy here as the film is very good and I'd advise any fan of HK or gangster movies to seek it out.

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