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Hong Kong Nocturne: The Films of Johnnie To

Wednesday, June 18, 2008
8:30 p.m. Triad Election
Johnnie To (Hong Kong/China, 2006)

(Hak se wui yi wo wai kwai, a.k.a. Election 2). This black-hearted sequel to Election finds nattily attired younger henchman Jimmy, who attends both shootouts and economics lectures, now being browbeaten into running for triad boss during the new “election.” In addition to a familiar threat (the current head of the triad, who’s not about to relinquish power), Jimmy must also contend with corrupt mainland Chinese officials, and soon his Brooks Brothers suits are getting a bit stained with human blood. Reinvigorating the triad genre the way The Sopranos did for the mafia, Triad Election seems hyperrealistic in both its concerns (the gang members spend more time politicking and jostling for money than killing one another) and aesthetics (when the fighting does occur, it’s with clubs and knives, not guns, and death is certainly not easy). A portrait of twenty-first-century Hong Kong and China so attuned to Darwinian capitalism that it could be Mao’s worst nightmare, the film was suitably banned in China, and all publicity materials seized and burned.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Yau Nai-hoi, Yip Tin-shing. Photographed by Cheng Siu-keung. With Simon Yam, Louis Koo, Nick Cheung, Lam Suet. (92 mins, In Cantonese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Tartan Films)