In the early 1990s, the leaders of the Hong Kong action pack included John Woo, Ringo Lam, Tsui Hark and Ching Siu-tung with Johnny To running somewhere in the distance. His only major credit was co-directing the awesome The Heroic Trio (1993) with Ching. But as the 1997 handover approached, during which control of Hong Kong would revert from the British back to the Communist Chinese, most filmmakers panicked. Some came to the U.S. to make Jean-Claude Van Damme movies and others simply laid low, waiting for the worst to happen. However, To suddenly found himself at the forefront of things, and slowly worked his way into becoming Hong Kong's top new action director, consistently churning out reliable, if old-fashioned hits: Running Out of Time (1999), Help!!! (2000), Fulltime Killer (2001), Running on Karma (2003), Breaking News (2004), Election (2005), Exiled (2006) and now Triad Election.
Tartan Films is giving Triad Election an American theatrical release, even though its forerunner, Election, did not get the same treatment. No matter. I didn't see Election, and it was easy enough for me to parcel out what was what. This superb, graceful new film actually has quite a bit in common with Francis Coppola's Godfather trilogy, and so anyone even remotely familiar with that should be able to follow it pretty clearly. Here it is: Lok (Simon Yam) is the current Chairman of Wo Shing Triad Society in Hong Kong. Each Chairman is elected and serves for two years. Lok's time is running out and he wishes to serve another term.