Like so many of this summer’s movies, “Triad Election” is a sequel. But a couple of things distinguish it from the run of pirates, ogres and other big-budget blockbusters.
For one thing, it’s in another language. For another, it doesn’t require that you watch the previous film(s) on DVD the night before you see the new movie just so you can keep the plot straight.
I can verify this, because I haven’t seen “Election,” the Hong Kong film that preceded it. But “Triad Election” is still a stylish, involving gangster picture.
Some of the characters are the same, but the plot can stand on its own. “Triad Election” revolves around a sleek, successful young mob operator named Jimmy (Louis Koo). He’s made his name and a nice pile of money.
In fact, he’d be a good candidate for the next mob chairman election (a Godfather-type position that comes open every two years). Problem is, Jimmy plans to go legit. He wants out of crime, wants a settled life with a wife and family, and already knows where his house will be.
Of course, it won’t be that easy. Not only do his mob cronies want him to campaign for chairman, but so do the Chinese police. In clandestine meetings, they strongly suggest the advantages they could have from installing a smart guy as chairman.
So, like Al Pacino in other circumstances, they just keep pullin’ Jimmy back in. This is not a novel plot, but director Johnnie To, a prolific veteran of the Hong Kong film scene, gives it an intelligent treatment.
Johnnie To has a great strategy for the movie: First it comes on as a sleek exercise in style, and then To uses a couple of amazing set-pieces to drive home the ugliness of this world. One is a suspenseful ambush that involves gangsters fanning out in the streets, machetes in hand; the other finds an unfortunate flunky on a collision course with a meat grinder. This is not a metaphor – it’s a real meat grinder.
“Triad Election” features a nifty cast, including Simon Yam as the current chairman, who’s showing a marked reluctance to surrender his position. Louis Koo is made up like George Chakiris in “West Side Story,” and he carries off the lead role with the right amount of gravity and cool.
Gangster movies translate across languages and cultures, and “Triad Election” is no exception. It’s just the thing for “Sopranos” fans experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Louis Koo stars in “Triad Election.”