Election 2 is the sequel to Johnnie To’s hot triad drama, Election, from 2005. Election 2 sees Lok in the wake of having usurped power his way in the Wo Shing Triad Society. Two years have passed and it’s time for another election of a new chairman. Jimmy, the young upstart of Election who helped Lok rise to power, returns in the sequel as a businessman first-and-foremost, interested in Mainland opportunities, and a gang-member second. But the Chinese Security Bureau surprisingly blackmails Jimmy into running for Chairman, promising him interference-free business opportunities in exchange for the win. Election 2 asks some pretty big questions: What do you want out of life? What are you willing to do to achieve? Why do you want what it is that you want?
What makes Election 1 and 2 so strong is that they are smart films. Instead of seeing who can get a higher body count and strike the meanest pose, both films play out like chess games. The film could almost be silent, its narrative, thematic, and character developments being expressed so methodically, so purely on a visual level. If you loved the first film, there’s little doubt you’ll enjoy this one as well. What really draws me in to these movies is the way that the characters are expanded upon, especially in the second movie. Triads are usually so generic and cliched that tend to be the same in movie after movie. But in these movies, we see characters that could almost exist in the same reality as ours.
It’s also surprisingly critical of the corruption in the Chinese government, implying that its collusion with Triad gangsters goes way beyond mere backhanders but is actually a deliberate part of government policy as a means of exerting social control in Hong Kong through close ties with organized crime. Triads are usually so generic and cliched that tend to be the same in movie after movie. But in these movies, we see characters that could almost exist in the same reality as ours. I was sad to see Lam Suet being utilized very little in this film but his character briefly brings up the very central point of the triad lifestyle being an endless cycle and a one-way ticket.
There’s even time to examine the effect our behaviour has on the children born into this world, main focus on that coming through Yam’s character. It ends with the possibility of hope for one son but the certainty of damnation for another that hasn’t even been born. Johnnie To closes the Election saga in fine fashion. Conclusion is downbeat, corresponding to real life concerns of the Hong Kong people. Performances, style, story, emotion–it has it all. Anyone who loves a good gangster drama will love these movies. Johnnie To once again proves why he is one of my favorite filmmakers. Make sure you go see this one.