With this sequel to the excellent 2005 film Election, Hong Kong director Johnnie To adds yet another great film to his long and impressive list of work. Few other directors have managed to make so many movies and maintain the same high standards in one film after another. Election 2 sees the return of all the characters (at least those who managed to survive) from Election, and guess what; it’s time for another triad election.
It’s been two years since the last election, where Lok (Simon Yam) was voted as the Chairman of the Wo Shing Society. Things seem to have gone well under Lok’s leadership, and he is determined to be re-elected for a second term. But this is not going to be easy, because tradition says that the same person can’t be the Chairman for two terms. This time round, the senior members of the gang generally favour Jimmy, who is actually more keen to run a business, but ends up reluctantly competing for the Chairman position in order to fulfil his legitimate business ambitions. And so another bloody gang war begins…
Johnnie To once again takes us on a journey into the triad society, which he portrays as a world where honour, loyalty and trust do not exist. Alliances readily form and dissolve, depending on the needs of the individuals at that moment. Gang members are shown to achieve their aims by the most brutal methods like murder and torture. The violence is graphic, and it seems that To is trying to paint a realistic picture of what gangs are actually like. This provides stark contrasts with what we see in most of the gangster movies from Hong Kong (such as To’s own Exiled, which by the way is very entertaining), where gangsters are commonly presented as heroes, and violence is stylishly choreographed so that it is fun and exciting to watch.
Simon Yam as the calculating Lok once again gives an excellent performance. Louis Koo is also solid as the quiet but cold-blooded Jimmy. The other cast members from the first movie, many of whom are regulars in To’s films, return with strong performances. In this sequel, however, the focus is very much on the power struggle between the two main characters. What happens to the other characters is largely the result of what Lok and Jimmy have done. Two of the more honourable characters from the first movie, Jet (Nick Cheung) and Big Head (Suet Lam), haven’t really made much gain in terms of power or status. In fact, it feels that their characters don’t have as much of an impact this time, which is a shame, because they are interesting characters (especially Jet).
Viewers who liked Election should also enjoy Election 2. The script is tight, and tension builds up gradually just like in the first movie. In fact, having seen Election will add to an understanding and appreciation of Election 2. Many scenes make reference to what happened in the first movie. The baton, which featured strongly in the first movie as a symbol of power, makes a brief but important appearance in Election 2. The fishing scene with Lok and Kun (Lam Ka-Tung) discussing gangland politics should remind viewers of the climactic scene in Election, and that alone is enough to make your heart beat fast during what might otherwise be a completely innocent scene.
So, To has done another fine job in directing Election 2. Should there be an Election 3? I personally think so. There are certainly enough threads that can be developed, such as the fates of Jet and Kun. And it will be really interesting to see if the filmmakers stick to the election cycle and focus on the next election, or will they fast forward to the next generation of gangsters, Lok’s son included?