Politics and persuasion in a crime family
Special to The Seattle Times
"Triad Election," with Louis Koo, Lam Ka Tung, Simon Yam. Directed by Johnnie To,from a screenplay by Yau Nai Hoi and Yip Tin Shing. 95 minutes.
Not rated; for mature audiences. In Cantonese with English subtitles. Varsity.
Looking for a tip on how to win over and influence people? Try killing one of your rival's foot soldiers and feeding his remains to attack dogs while his colleagues watch. That nauseating scene plays out in Johnnie To's mildly interesting "Triad Election" — a sequel to "Election," a 2005 film about shifts of power in Wo Sing, a Hong Kong organized crime family.
The new film concerns another significant change in the outfit as the current chairman's two-year reign is coming to an end. An upcoming election sparks bloodshed between Jimmy (Louis Koo) and Kun (Lam Ka Tung), two godsons of the boss (Simon Yam). The latter is also taking desperate steps to remain in charge. While the resulting three-way competition gets pretty ugly, the film is really about Jimmy, a police informant trying to get out of Wo Sing and build a legitimate business empire.
Authorities tell Jimmy he'll have the government's full cooperation meeting his long-range goals, but they want him to lead Wo Sing into peaceful co-existence with officials. Koo, strikingly reminiscent of Alain Delon ("Le Samourai"), makes a handsome and laconic anti-hero whose capacity for violence is particularly horrifying because one wants to like Jimmy, an educated fellow with a pretty, loving wife waiting to build a home with him.
Like the late John Frankenheimer, director To ("PTU") marries his drama with action and superb composition to achieve compelling results at times. But the script by Yau Nai Hoi and Yip Tin Shing is often mired in talky exchanges that feel like television, and much of the brutality is obligatory. Still, the arc of Jimmy's story and sundry ironies involving other characters make "Triad Election" intriguing.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org
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