Thursday, May 25, 2023

Election & Election 2 – Chameleon Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Dates: Hong Kong, 2005 (Election), Hong Kong, 2006 (Election 2)
Director: Johnnie To (Both Films)
Writers: Yau Nai-hoi, Yip Tin-shing (Both Films)
Cast: Simon Yam, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Louis Koo, Nick Cheung, Gordon Lam, Cheung Siu-fai, David Chiang, Raymond Wong, Andy On, Wong Tin-lam, Lam Suet 

Release Date: May 17th, 2023
Approximate running times: 100 Minutes 27 Seconds (Election), 93 Minutes 20 Seconds (Election 2)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Films)
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Cantonese, LPCM Stereo Cantonese (Both Films)
Subtitles: English (Both Films)
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $64.95 AUD (Australia)

"The Election films have been compared with The Godfather in the way they take crime syndicates seriously, showing how murderous violence, family, national politics and honour are woven inextricably together.

These dark, moody films exude a relentless air of menace as they strip the glamour and gunplay away from the triads and take us through the battles for the top job in the Wo Shing triad. Candidates negotiate with the uncles who uphold the historical traditions of the triad societies, while they must also deal with the politics of contemporary Hong Kong as it moves inexorably into the orbit of the mainland.

Once the votes are in, the real contest begins with a series of simmering confrontations involving face, money and loyalty in equal measure. One thing is certain—the quietly intense political manoeuvring will surely lead to blood, though in the best tradition of Johnnie To’s films, the violent showdowns are anything but predictable." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4/5 (Election), 4.25./5 (Election 2)

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "High definition digital restoration of both films."

Election comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.8 GB

Feature: 29.3 GB

The source used for this transfer is in great shape. Colors look correct, flesh looks healthy, image clarity and black levels are strong, and compression is very good. That said, this is a solid encode.

Election 2 comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.9 GB

Feature: 28.8 GB

The source used for this transfer is in great shape. Though this transfer has many similar qualities to Election’s transfer, the result is a transfer that is slightly stronger in every category. That said, this is a solid encode.

Audio: 5/5 (DTS-HD 5.1 Cantonese, LPCM Stereo Cantonese)

Each film comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Cantonese and a LPCM stereo mix in Cantonese. You can’t go wrong with either of these tracks. Dialog always comes through clearly; everything sounds balanced and robust when it should. Also, the DTS-HD 5.1 audio tracks do a superb job expanding the sound design. Included are removable English subtitles for both films.

Extras:

Extras for Election include a photo gallery (poster/stills), theatrical trailer #1 (1 minute 35 seconds, LPCM stereo Cantonese with non-removable English subtitles), theatrical trailer #2 (1 minute 35 seconds, LPCM stereo Cantonese with non-removable English subtitles), two TV spots (36 seconds, LPCM stereo Cantonese with non-removable English subtitles), an archival featurette titled The Making of Election (7 minutes 20 seconds, LPCM stereo Chinese with non-removable English subtitles), an archival interview with director Johnnie To (29 minutes 4 seconds, LPCM stereo Chinese with non-removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actor Simon Yam (6 minutes 44 seconds, LPCM stereo Chinese with non-removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actor Tony Leung Ka-fai (15 minutes 51 seconds, LPCM stereo Chinese with non-removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actor Wong Tin-lam (29 minutes 4 seconds, LPCM stereo Chinese with non-removable English subtitles), an audio recording hosted by film historian Mike Walsh titled OzAsia Festival 2016 Masterclass with Johnnie To (36 minutes 43 seconds, LPCM stereo English and Chinese with non-removable English subtitles for Chinese), and an audio commentary with Hong Kong cinema experts Frank Djeng and John Charles.

Extras for Election 2 include a photo gallery (poster/stills), a theatrical trailer (2 minute 15 seconds, DTS-HD stereo Cantonese with non-removable English subtitles), three TV spots (3 minutes 3 seconds, LPCM stereo Cantonese with non-removable English subtitles), an archival featurette titled The Making of Election 2 (7 minutes 1 second, LPCM stereo Chinese with non-removable English subtitles), an archival interview with Johnnie To (11 minutes 57 seconds, LPCM stereo Chinese with non-removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actor Lam Suet (17 minutes 20 seconds, LPCM stereo Chinese with non-removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actor Gordon Lam Ka-tung (14 minutes 17 seconds, LPCM stereo Chinese with non-removable English subtitles), a video essay on the Election films titled The Veneer of Nobility (8 minutes 6 seconds, LPCM stereo English with non-removable English subtitles for Cantonese film clips), an interview with composer Robert Ellis-Geiger (28 minutes 44 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), an audio commentary with Frank Djeng and John Charles, and a second audio commentary with Frank Djeng titled supplemental audio commentary.

Other extras include reversible cover art, a slipcase (limited to first pressing), and a twenty-four-page booklet (limited to first pressing) with cast and crew information for both films, an essay titled A Milkyway Mob Story written by Gary Bettinson, and an essay titled From a Mission to Two Elections, By Way of a Unit written by Sam Ho.

Summary:

Johnnie To’s Election and Election 2 are best described as Hong Kong’s Godfather saga. These two films follow the rise of a character named Lok, his struggle to retain power, and the events leading to his demise. It is a classic rise-and-fall story set in the world of organized crime.

Though director Johnnie To is known for his work within the crime film genre, when compared to his work within this genre, Election and Election 2 stand apart from his other films. And nowhere is this clearer than when it comes to the tone of these two films.

That said, when it comes to Hong Kong cinema and crime films, Johnnie To is one of the premier Hong Kong filmmakers to ever work in this genre. And with Election and Election 2, he delivered what are arguably the best films he has ever made.

Throughout his career, Johnnie To has surrounded himself with a core group of actors with whom he often works. Needless to say, Election and Election 2 are filled with familiar faces for anyone who's a fan of Johnnie To’s cinema.

The performances in Election and Election 2 are all great. There is not a performance, even when it comes to secondary characters, that is lacking. Standout performances are Simon Yam (Naked Killer) in the role of Lok, a man who is picked as the new chairman of the Wo Lin Shing triads, and Louis Koo (Drug War) in the role of Jimmy Lee, one of Lok’s protegees. Though both of these characters use violence to maintain power and instill fear, Jimmy Lee wants to distance himself from criminal activity, while Lok embraces it.

Though Election and Election 2 are separate films, their narratives are linear stories that connect the two films by picking up where the other left off. That said, where do Election's focuses on establishing who everyone is and what their motivations are? Election 2 is the more intense of these two films as the focus shifts towards the power struggle, which has caused an eruption of violence.

Johnnie To’s direction and the performances create an utterly tangible reality that draws you in and has you on the edge of your seat, anticipating what will happen next. Though Election and Election 2 are more dialog-driven than other similar-themed Hong Kong films, when it comes to violent outbursts, that is not to say that these films do not deliver and then some. A few moments of carnage include a character being beaten to death with a rock that is used to crush their head; a man who is put in a cloth bag is dumped into water and drowned; and another man is beaten viciously with a sledgehammer.

In the world of Election and Election 2, loyalty is key to survival as alliances are formed and betrayal is waiting around the corner. Also, the most valuable commodity is one's word, and if you cannot be trusted, it is only a matter of time before you are the next mark. Ultimately, Election and Election 2 are two extraordinary cinematic experiences that are must-see films if you're a fan of Hong Kong crime films.

Being that this release is region-free and has no rating logos anywhere on the packaging, there is no reason not to buy this release if you're a fan of Johnnie To. Election and Election 2 get an excellent release from Chameleon Films that gives both films strong audio and video presentations and a wealth of insightful extras, highly recommended.


















Written by Michael Den Boer

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