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As election time nears, current Triad chairman Lok (Yam) faces competition from his godsons. At the same time, Jimmy (Koo) looks to increase his business relations with mainland China.
For more about Election 2 and the Election 2 Blu-ray release, see Election 2 Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on July 7, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Louis Koo, Simon Yam, Nick Cheung, Ka Tung Lam, Suet Lam, Andy On
Director: Johnnie To
» See full cast & crew
Election 2 Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 7, 2009
Winner of the Best Film Award granted by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society, Johnnie To's "Election II" (2006) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Hong Kong-based distributors Panorama. All of the special features are placed on a separate SDVD. Amongst them are exclusives interviews with Johnnie To and cast members, Making-of documentary and more. All of the supplemental features are perfectly playable on Region-A hardware. English-friendly and Region-Free.
Chairman Lok (Simon Yam, Sparrow) has led the Wo Shing Society to prosperity. Its leaders have become wealthier and expanded their business far beyond Hong Kong. Now that it is time for chairman Lok to step down, they are looking to elect a man who would continue his legacy.
Everyone agrees that if Jimmy Lee (Louis Koo, Flash Point), a young and ambitious businessman, decides to run for the post, he would certainly win. But if he does not, the selection of a new chairman would be an extremely challenging task.
Running the Wo Shing Society, however, is the last thing on Jimmy's mind. He is interested in teaming up with legit investors for the construction of a massive highway in China that would effectively separate him from his murky past.
While negotiating with a high-ranking government official, Jimmy is told that it will be impossible for him to invest in China unless he is well positioned within the Wo Shing Society. Confused and enraged, Jimmy goes back to Hong Kong and immediately announces his intention to run for a chairman.
Meanwhile, chairman Lok asks the leaders of the Wo Shing Society if they would agree to let him serve a second term. Most of them are displeased to hear that he is even entertaining the idea – one could never be a chairman twice in a row. But chairman Lok is convinced that he is the only man that could lead the different factions within the Wo Shing Society. He decides to eliminate Jimmy and retain the Dragon Head baton.
Johnnie To's follow up to his Election (2005) is a notably darker, more violent and disturbing film. Its narrative is far more complicated as well. Crime, politics, and globalization are the three key themes in the film.
Even though in Election II the two rivaling sides are well defined, there are a number of multi-faceted conflicts that effectively separate it film from Election. For example, director To's examination of the collaboration between the triad and the communist government in China is very convincing.
Nonetheless, Election II remains a notably minimalistic film. Some of the most effective scenes in it are silent. Director To and cinematographer Cheng Siu-keung create an incredibly tense environment that blends well with the film's narrative.
Louis Koo plays the young and cold-heartened Jimmy Lee to perfection. His character transformations are one of the key reasons why Election II is a better film than Election. For example, there is an utterly brutal scene during the second half of the film where Jimmy loses his mind and does something terrible, absolutely bloodcurdling. Immediately after that, he switches back to being a confident but cautious leader.
Simon Yam's character is not the focus of attention in Election II but is still crucial to the story. Nick Cheung, who plays his protégé Jet, is undoubtedly a pleasant surprise – his edgy performance is charged with an unbelievable amount of energy.
Film editor Patrick Tam is not on board for Election II, but Cheung Ka-kit (Black Night) and Law Wing-cheong (Tactical Unit: The Code) are just as effective. Composer Robert Ellis-Geiger (After This Our Exile) has replaced Lo Tayu, but his score is as atmospheric as that of his predecessor.
Election 2 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Johnnie To's Election II arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Hong Kong-based distributors Panorama.
Election II looks slightly sharper and better detailed than Election. Its color-scheme, however, is as complex as that of Election. There are plenty of scenes where grays, browns, blues and whites look somewhat soft. The heavy shadows I addressed in my review for Election are once again of utmost importance in this film – there are certain scenes where you could barely see the faces of the main protagonists. Again, I assume that all of this is intentional. This being said, I noticed a bit of mild-edge enhancement (see second capture) popping up here and there but it is hardly something that would affect your viewing experience. Occasionally, I also spotted bits of digital noise. Macroblocking, however, is not an issue of concern. The actual print appears to be in near perfect condition. Aside from a few tiny specks that I saw early into the film, there are no disturbing debris, scratches, or dirt to report in this review. I would also like to mention that this is a notably stable print. To sum it all up, if the few issues I noted above were not present, Election II would have looked exceptional. Still, I have absolutely no problem recommending this disc to you. (Note: This is a Region-Free disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location).
Election 2 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are three audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1. I opted for the Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and later on did a few random comparisons with the other two tracks for the purpose of this review.
Once again, I am very pleased with the audio treatment. The Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track has been mixed exceptionally well - the bass is convincing, the high frequencies not overdone and the rear channels intelligently used. The dialog is crisp, clean and very easy to follow. The music score by Robert Ellis-Geiger is delicately mixed with the dialog. There are no disturbing pops, cracks, or dropouts that I detected.
And once again, the Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 track is not a match for the Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. This is not to say that it is a flawed track, but it most certainly does not match the dynamic intensity of the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Interestingly enough, this is most obvious not during the action scenes, but when Robert Ellis-Geiger's soundtrack is more prominent. For the record, Panorama have provided optional English, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese subtitles. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
Election 2 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
(Note: All of the supplemental features are placed on a separate SDVD. All are in 480/60i and perfectly playable on Region-A players. All of the supplemental features arrive with optional English and Simplified Chinese subtitles).
Exclusive interview with Johnnie To -the director talks about the history of his films at the Cannes Film Festival, their unique style, the themes they address, etc. (12 min).
Exclusive interviews with selected actors - Lam Suet (18 min) and Lam Ka Tung (15 min) talk about the characters they play, they impressions of Johnnie To and organized crime in Hong Kong,
Making of documentary - a rather short piece on the focusing on the production history of Election II. (7 min).
Trailers-there is only one trailer for the main feature.
TV Spots- three TV spots.
Photo Gallery -
Election 2 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I enjoyed Johnnie To's Election II a lot. In my opinion, it is a lot better than Election. It is darker, grittier and more violent. It is also better paced and with a lot more complex narrative. If you enjoy intelligent crime films, where style and substance are well balanced, do not miss it. The Blu-ray disc herein reviewed, courtesy of Panorama, looks and sounds very good. Highly Recommended.
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