June 09, 2006


I thought this would be a nicer post, but maybe you can pretend today is opposite day so when someone writes, "ELECTION is a confused, muddled mess," what they really mean is, "ELECTION is great!"

ELECTION has opened in seven theaters in the UK and Richard writes in that the reviews are, well read them for yourself:

David Mattin at the BBC says it has a "confusing, disjointed narrative...under-developed characters and slipshod storytelling...ELECTION can't get the basics right."

The Telegraph's Tim Robey writes that, "The endless Triad board meetings would be confusing enough without the dismal cinematography, which makes it impossible to see people's faces for entire scenes."

3 out of 5 stars at The Times from Wendy Ide who demonstrates her artful knowledge with, "To, not the most artful of directors, slams on the brakes at the 75 minute mark for a clumsy 'Triad History 101' segment...the action never exactly thunders along in this predominantly static, overly talky take on the Hong Kong crime genre...ELECTION looks positively lacklustre next to, say, the stylish gangster v. cop treachery of the INFERNAL AFFAIRS trilogy. It also lacks the visual impact that attracts audiences to the best of Hong Kong crime movies." She also demonstrates her ability to write colorfully when she claims that the movie "
takes place in underlit noodle shacks accompanied by a death- rattle of mah jong tiles." I can only remember one mah jong scene in the film (at the beginning) and I don't recall a single noodle shack. Then she goes totally out to lunch with this closing paragraph:

"I’m yet to be persuaded that what cinema audiences need when we’re about to be bombarded with football day and night is even more soccer. But several distributors over the past few weeks seem to believe that our appetite for the beautiful game will not be sated until we have seen what independent cinema has to say on the subject."

Seriously, that's her closing paragraph in her ELECTION review. No links, no "click here for more", nothing. Trust The Times to have to work football into everything.

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw seems baffled, "there is a strange lack of life in the story itself, a baffling absence of dramatic charge in any of the principals and no urgent sense of what is at stake between them...We are plunged into this dispute, but with insufficient time to get to know any of these players, they never fully come to life."

Empire Magazine, surprisingly, awards it 3 stars (and gives POSEIDON 4) and says it's a "cert for a Mafia-set Hollywood remake." Something I can't imagine happening unless the Mafia decides to become fashionably Chinese and fight over things like Dragon Head Batons because they think that will make them seem more equal opportunity and inviting to Asian-Americans.

Time Out can't even get too excited about it, claiming that ELECTION "suffers from problems of tone and identification..." although they have decided that the dark lighting is style and not an issue of China not having enough light bulbs, "boosted by strong performances, To's directorial lightfootedness and the widescreen cinematography of Siu-Keung Cheng."

Leave it to Stephen Teo to write a positive review for Sight & Sound and then Channel 4 who call it "an unconventional, effective and powerful drama."

I think someone should write a letter to Johnnie To that he needs to learn how to make a movie as good as a white person before he tries to crack our sophisticated Western markets again.

(Thanks to Richard Taylor who has totally ruined/made my day with this)

June 9, 2006 at 10:35 AM in News | Permalink


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How entirely dispiriting. This is a pic that made it into my ten best last year. I think it's a failure of Western critics to meet a film halfway when they think it's supposed to be another guns blazing Woo-alike or INFERNAL AFFAIRS redux. To exists in a strange in-between world for HK directors; he works in commercial genres, but his films are always at least a degree or two more artful (sorry, Wendy Ide), elliptical and strange than the genre suggests. Hell, I even liked YESTERDAY ONCE MORE for its bitter, weird take on the romantic caper movie. But in the end, this seems a clear failure on the part of the writers, who don't even appear to know what movie they were watching. The EMPIRE review, interestingly, reads like a restrained 4-star. THROWDOWN, To's most beautiful film, was on the receiving end of universally uncomprehending reviews when it ran at the Anthology. Too sentimental, too underlit, not enough action.

This sounds like a stupid question, but is To just too GOOD to be popular in the West?

Posted by: Abe Goldfarb | Jun 9, 2006 11:36:22 AM

It is very sad to see that ELECTION got terrible reviews in UK.... it isn't surprise, too....

Maybe making a big-budget period action movie is a only way for Johnnie To to get more love in Western markets......

In fact, according to several Taiwan medias, Johnnie To said to reporters in Cannes that he is going to make a big-budget Chinese period movie; Johnnie To also said that it would be a English-language movie. (After Cannes, Johnnie To's assisant said to a Chinese medias that this news is totally not true, though)

Posted by: no name | Jun 9, 2006 11:46:00 AM

in a way, not that surprising, though odd theyre seemingly consistant in their knocking of the film. one thing thats hard to describe and to keep in mind when talking about such films on a regular basis is that its often so hard to maintain a knowledge when watching films from other countries on a very regular basis, that you can easily develope a different sense of whats 'good' and whats 'bad' that doesnt take into account the 'good' and 'bad' of what we probably watch more frequently : the hollywood movies, tv dramas, and whatever else is more obviously around us on a day-to-day basis. 'election' is a good film, but in relation to its origins - just as, for example, hideo nakata is a good director when within the machine of japans industry, but not necessarily up to much when working in a different industry like the american one.

Posted by: logboy | Jun 10, 2006 12:18:43 AM

Election grossed US$8716 (UK£4600 approx) on 7 screens in the UK from 9th - 11th June

By my very rough calculations I make that maybe 6 people per screening tops (I saw it on the 9th June - the day of the opening World Cup match - in the afternoon at the Cineworld Trocadero in London : very near Chinatown btw : and there were 15 there)

That said it got a better per screen average than two Top 10 films (The Wild & Mission Impossible 3)!

Posted by: David Harris | Jun 16, 2006 3:25:58 AM

what the fuck do u know about it
if ur not chinese i dont think u would understand
shit about that movie, go fuck a cow
fuck uk who give tha shit about UK
dont pretend that u understand any of it

Posted by: FUCK THE UK | Jul 3, 2006 9:20:42 PM

FUCK THE UK, don't be racist.

Everyone has different tastes. Maybe we don't agree with their tastes, but we should respect their tastes.

Posted by: no name | Jul 4, 2006 2:38:48 AM

ELECTION is a nice movie. There are olny one reason people in UK can not understand all of the mean in this movie. Election in US is quite good. I dont know why people from UK can't understand it. I suggest you guys should see more movie and learn more !

Posted by: sTing | Mar 17, 2007 12:53:25 AM

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