Election (2005), Dir. Johnnie To

With the crazy popularity of Hong Kong director Johnnie To, it seems that the hip, cool thing to do is to poo-poo his films, almost like people are tired of him making good films. You know who you are…….

Which is why I’m going global with this declaration: I love a Johnnie To film! That’s right, I’ve said it. And one of my favorites is Election. I just showed it in a class recently, and I realized that, like any good film I like, it’s better subsequent times around!

If you’ve gone through the Young and Dangerous series, every John Woo film he made before skipping town for Hollywood, and nearly every permutation of triad-mob story-Chinese gangster movie, your expectations for seeing something new in a triad film may be low.  Even if you’ve seen Johnnie To’s other triad movies (shout out to The Mission), Election gives you what you expect in a Johnnie To movie (appropriate music (yes, I’m still referencing The Mission), domestic scenes with men, mood lighting).  What I think is keen about Election is the tribute it pays to old-school gangsterism.  Before you had semi-automatic weapons, you had to use what was at hand.  And Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Simon Yam use WHATEVER is at hand!  Back when people had, to borrow a sentiment from Miller’s Crossing, “ethics.”

That’s right, I love a Johnnie To film, and I don’t care who knows it!

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