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Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Scrupulous execution makes this gangster film, from Hong Kong helmer Johnnie To, something special. The election in play is for the biennial position as head of the local Triad and two men are vying for the top spot just as the local police are closing in on all the mob players. But while the local backstabbing and violence are playing out, a missing dragon head’s baton, the traditional symbol of authority, has gone missing on the wrong side of the Chinese border. Johnnie To manages to thread dozens of characters and plot twists without losing a beat (or confusing a non-Asian viewer) while tossing off superbly built action sequences and some stunning character reversals. Three or four bits should go down as instant classics and if To can’t balance all his lines of action (the police P.O.V. tends to get lost), he pulls us in without tacitly approving of the pandering sadism, eccentric crowd-pleasing psychopaths & unearned grandiosity you find in so many modern mob epics. Thrilling stuff, right to the end.

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