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Review: Election

[The following review contains MAJOR SPOILERS; YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]

Loyalty. Tradition. Brotherhood. These are the values that govern the Wo Shing Society, the organized crime syndicate around which the plot of Johnnie To’s Election revolves.

Rubbish. Nonsense. Bullshit. There is no honor among thieves; the film brutally deconstructs the very concept of the archetypal "chivalrous outlaw." Consider, for example, the scene in which the senior members of the Triad assemble to cast their votes for their new leader. The room is dark, smoky, and cacophonous. One of the old men passionately extols the merits of his chosen candidate, Big D—a bit of a hothead, perhaps, but a good earner nevertheless. A fellow “Uncle” sharply rebukes him, pointedly asking how much he was paid in exchange for his endorsement. The tension threatens to erupt into physical violence… until the current chairman calmly announces that tea is served, temporarily silencing the debate.

The accusation of bribery is hardly unfounded, of course; in the underworld, influence is bought and sold, and Big D has plenty of cash to toss around. He is also ambitious (and foolish) enough to declare civil war when money fails to secure his victory. His rival, Lok, acts quickly to negotiate peace, offering him a generous slice of territory, granting him total control over several profitable front companies, and appointing him second-in-command in all but name.

Do not, however, be deceived by Lok’s diplomacy. He may be more reasonable and rational than his bloodthirsty lieutenant, but he’s still an unrepentantly ruthless killer; as soon as a subordinate steps out of line, he’ll unceremoniously bash his skull in with a rock, bury him in a shallow grave (along with any unfortunate witnesses), and drive off into the end credits without a second thought or a backward glance.

Because in Election, there are no heroes—just greedy gangsters, corrupt cops, and the innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire.

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