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Lok and Big D both want leadership of the oldest Triad Society. The problem is that the Triads tend to stick to bizarre superstitions that younger members feel get in the way of proper business. But, it doesn’t matter. The next leader of the Triads has to find the special baton that will allow to them reign supreme over the Triad Criminal Empire.

Election
Lok is sensible and wants to honour the Triad’s past, so that the business at hand can be settled. Big D is a rock star of the Underworld and wants everyone to forgo this nonsense and do what he says. When Big D starts to feel threatened by the fact that the Old World gangster that dominate the Underworld won’t let traditions go, he decides to cheat. This X Factor that’s suddenly thrown into the mix makes everyone in the Triads begin to question what matters most to them, especially Lok.

I found the real meat of the drama to be in Lok’s eventual collapse into the special kind of bastard it takes to be in charge of a larger organization. I’d like to take a moment to appreciate the director Johnnie To, who moves into a realm occupied by such greats as Scorsese and DePalma with this film. He gives a look at a man who can’t process when his rules are broken. Much has been made of the Big D character in other films, but I feel that focusing on that character really isn’t the point.

Election
The heart of the story lies with Lok and if you stay with him from the first frame to the finale, you’ll be more satisfied. It’s not to say that any of this material is new. Hell, James Cagney and Raoul Walsh covered similar ground ages ago. It’s just that Western Viewers get to experience the genre conventions and interpersonal dynamic through a new filter.

Video


Election continues the long streak of Tartan Video being able to release great transfers that border on being too soft at times. The shadow detail on the transfer is so weak that I almost lost complete focus in darker scenes. Anytime that there’s excessive lighting or a natural flood of light in a scene, the characters seem to be surrounded in haze that makes me wonder if there’s an easier way to place Eastern Cinema onto DVD. Even though it distracted me during darker scenes, I noticed that in contrast the lighter scheme seemed to enhance the finale at the ol’ fishing spot. It’s just that a happy balance needs to be reached in the matter. Otherwise, you’ve got a case of a transfer that could’ve been great, but ended up as a haze filled fog of a feature film.

Election

Audio


The DVD’s audio is outstanding. The original Cantonese language tracks are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and a pretty full DTS Surround 5.1 track. There are a surprising amount of quiet scenes in the film with heavy dialogue and all channels are represented in the larger scenes, even if it’s nothing but more dialogue. The real audio treat comes from the finale at a secluded fishing spot where you treated to an on-the-fly action scene that plays well against the various elements that occupy the area.

Extras


The extras are really skimpy. There’s a look at the making of Election that feels like 90% fluff material and about 10% real content. The other supplemental materials are a collection of interviews the cast/crew and the typical theatrical trailer for the feature. Not a whole lot to get excited about, but the effort is appreciated.

Election

Overall


Election suffers from what all of To’s work has come to show. He’s an Eastern maverick who is afraid of playing too much off of Western influences. He broke apart heavy violence and long pauses with this bizarre sense of brevity that totally killed the flow of the film. When you’re already working on a dangerously short running time, it begs to viewer to ask about the integrity of the narrative. I would recommend renting Election and saving your hard earned cash for Election 2. The sequel, which was re-titled Triad Election in North America, learns from the mistakes of this film and takes everything to the next level.


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