Triad Election (US - DVD R1)
Gabe Powers leaves this election with a little red sticker that says "I Voted!"...
Jimmy (Louis Koo) is a second-tiered triad member vying aggressively for the position of godfather in the current election. He is restrained in his pursuits by the current mob boss, Lok (Simon Yam), who wants to hold his seat at the head of the table, despite the fact that his two years are up and he isn't officially eligible for re-election. Meanwhile, Jimmy’s legitimate business empire in mainland China is getting notice from the Chinese Government.
Not only am I apparently predisposed to not love the same Hong Kong cop thrillers everyone else seems to love, but I’m not a very big fan of missing part one of a sequel set. Triad Election is known in other countries as Election 2, and is, in fact, a sequel to Johnny To’s other popular Triad based election film. Triad Election tosses the audience into a situation with unknown characters in unknown situations and without Election I was left to flounder in the deep end.
The story’s pace is lightning fast, but without prior knowledge it appears simply as Chinese guys talking to each other in very strict and humourless tones. As in most crime movies, at the very least every crime film since The Godfather, Triad Election depends on its audience to read between the lines of character’s actions. Again, without understanding the point of any action, and I mean any action, I was lost. I didn’t know who was betraying who because I didn’t know who anyone was. So much of the film’s subtly was lost on me, and I was left only able to appreciate Johnny To’s graceful cinematic control and a handful of good performances.
Things pick up creatively at around the one hour mark when the film takes a very dark and twisted turn. The violence itself isn’t what makes the piece more thematically interesting, but the fact that all the sneaking about and untrusting looks finally start to pay off for our lead character. Let’s just say that his evil turn is a little messier than Michael Corleone's. It all happens so late in the game though, and the newly opened seams don’t have enough time to fester. I suppose we’ll have to wait for Election 3 to see if this pans out.
Tartan has released sequels without their prequels before, in the case of Another Public Enemy. The difference is that Triad Election does not appear to be a standalone film. If it was meant as a standalone feature it has a lot of problems, but I’ve decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. Without that benefit we’re left with a needlessly complex film filled with thinly drawn characters angsty for unspecific reasons. I will say one thing for these Triad double-crossers—they know how to make a creative hit better than those Italian guys.
They were on another role there for a bit, but Triad Election represents a bit of a stumble for Tartan USA. First off the transfer is very obviously interlaced. Usually I have to wait until I get screen caps on my computer to notice combing or interlacing effects, but these were obvious enough to stand out on the big screen television. The colours are quite bright, but the compositions are a bit flat due to muddied blacks. Dark objects blend into dark backgrounds, as in the consistently revisited scenes where old mobsters talk around a big table in a very dark restaurant. Noise is minimal for the most part, but blocking is obvious in warm colours.
The patented Tartan DTS track is hit-and-miss this time around too. The feature’s music and sound effects are larger than life, loud without losing definition, and the fidelity is incredible. Surround channels are lively, considering the fact that the majority of the film is relatively low key and the LFE booms consistently without warbling. The centre channel and the dialogue trapped within it are another story. The speaker is too loud in comparison to the rest of the track, and voices are often slightly distorted. Overall the dialogue sounds canned. The Dolby Digital track loses the rich volume of the surround and stereo channels, but its centre channel is sharper.
The making-of featurette is a seven minute fluff piece, obviously made to sell the film. There is some tiny insight, but not much. This is followed by two interviews. The first, with actor Lam Suet, runs about seventeen minutes, and encompasses most of the actor’s career, starting with his production work. Suet is very intelligent, a much better speaker than half the actors on the planet, and a pleasure to listen to. He also let me in a bit on the first film. Actor Lam Ka Tung is more eager to please with his interview, and sticks more to his work on the two Election films. The second interview runs about fourteen minutes. Both interviews feature footage from the original film. Everything is wrapped up with some Tartan Hong Kong crime trailers.
Had I any knowledge of Election going into Triad Election I may be singing a different tune, but as a continuation to a series I am entirely unfamiliar with this particular feature was merely a good looking diversion. If you’ve seen the first act and enjoyed it I’m guessing you’re in for more of the same. If you want to enjoy the film as more than a good looking diversion you might want to wait for Tartan to get their hands on the prequel.
Remember though readers, I’m the guy who didn’t love any of the Infernal Affairs movies, SPL or Divergence. Apparently Hong Kong gangster flicks aren’t my bag. For some reason I seem to appreciate the Korean ones more.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 11th September 2007
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: DTS 5.1 Cantonese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese, Dolby Surround Cantonese
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Making-Of Featurette, Interviews, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Johnny To
Cast: Simon Yam, Nick Cheung, Wong Tin-lam, Lam Suet, Louis Koo
Length: 92 minutes