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!

There Must Be Some Mistake….

This happened to me, and it may happen to you too.  I ordered this movie called The Storm Warriors, and there is clearly a mistake, because I don’t know what movie they put in my DVD case.  It vaguely looks like The Storm Warriors….it’s got the same characters from The Storm Riders, but what the heck is this?  Who let the Pang Brothers loose on this story?  Way to kill a franchise!

I suppose I should say something nice.  It is a visually interesting film, I will give it that.  Lots of the wind and flying hair we’ve come to love about Wind and Cloud. Interesting use of different techniques, especially in the battlefield scenes. But it’s dark…not dark in tone, but DARK, like you can’t see a whole lot dark.  What’s the use of action sequences when you can’t see the action?

I think my biggest complaint is with the LACK OF PLOT.  I mean, I know we are supposed to know Wind and Cloud, and I love Wind and Cloud (from Storm Riders), but I don’t care about Wind and Cloud in this film. C’mon, if you are going to jack the film (Pang Bros., I’m talkin to you), then at least give us something new.  Anyone with a modicum of film-watching experience  could have seen this coming a mile away.  Wow, Cloud is moody and Wind is sensitive.  Really?

And what is up with Heart?  You know Nicholas Tse is my boo (and you can tell him), but his character is completely wasted here. Don’t get me started on Simon Yam.

And can we please dispense with the naive female swordswoman who gets knocked down even though she’s hanging out with legendary swordsmen or is the daughter of a legend?  Please?  PLEASE!?!?!?!??!