Election

dir. Johnnie To

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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A power vacuum in the leadership of a triad society creates a dense and dangerous web of power plays, betrayals and retributions in the first part of Johnnie To's Election diptych.

Now recognized as one of the pre-eminent genre directors in the world, Johnnie To has had a long, diverse and prolific career, but made his name with a series of super-tough crime movies — including The Mission, PTU, Fulltime Killer and Exiled — that mixed a John Woo-like flair in action sequences with a remarkable formal control and a considerably more cynical, ironic and down-to-earth tone than in Woo's baroque paeans to brotherly love and bloody redemption. The Election diptych is a perfect display of To's mastery, dispensing with the sentimental notion of honour among thieves that marks so many gangster films and capturing the nakedly amoral lust for power at the dark heart of organized-criminal society. Featuring a stellar cast of To veterans including Simon Yam, Tony Leung Ka-fai and Louis Koo, the two films constitute a sprawling crime epic that traces the power plays, betrayals and retributions of high-level gangsters battling to fill the power vacuum left after the leadership of their triad society comes up for grabs. Though the films were shot and released separately, Election 2 is not a sequel to the first film but the essential tying-up of its many intricate narrative strands, making it imperative to view both films together.