Election (2005) – IMDb
Election is a complex Hong Kong gangster drama that convinces with its realistic vibe. The movie details the rivalry between the calm, diplomatic and mild-mannered Lok and the excitable, hot-tempered and self-centered Big D. Once Lok has been elected as the new leader of a triad by the elders, Big D refuses to accept the decision and is about to declare war by founding a new group. However, the candidates get arrested just in time by the police as authorities want to prevent a turf war. While negotiations between all parties involved continue in prison, their respective associates get in conflict with one another in the streets.
This movie convinces with a quite realistic plot that feels like a documentary at times. Especially the opening third explains how elections work in the triads and also details further administrative, cultural and historical elements. The second third focuses on the intense rivalry between the two candidates. The discussions and negotiations in prison are gripping while the car chases and fight sequences on the streets provide some welcome action scenes. The final third takes a more dramatic and almost philosophical turn as it shows how the two rivals coexist after their release from prison. The movie ends with a surprising twist that foreshadows this film’s sequel.
There are only two negative elements to point out. The opening third introduces the viewer to numerous characters. The first twenty minutes feel overloaded. It’s tough to figure out who is bribing, influencing and menacing who. A longer and smoother introduction would have made the movie more accessible overall. Another slightly negative element is that the film heavily focuses on dialogues. While most of them are witty and relevant, it can be quite exhausting and repetitive to digest them in the first and second thirds. Be aware that this is a drama in the first place and only an action film in the second position.
Despite two notable flaws, Election is a gangster drama that convinces with great action sequences, fascinating characters, cultural depth, strong dialogues and realistic plot. The movie was made in the tradition of Hong Kong gangster movies in the late eighties and early nineties. If this genre is your cup of tea, you will adore this movie. Those who are looking for a more contemporary take on the genre with impressive special effects should abstain.