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Life Without Principle

4.2 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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(May 29, 2012)
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Editorial Reviews

Life Without Principle delves into Hong Kong's money-obsessed culture through three characters whose destinies collide one fateful day when a loan shark gets assaulted after withdrawing $10 million from the bank.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Richie Ren, Ching Wan Lau, Terence Yin
  • Directors: Johnnie To
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Cantonese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Indomina
  • DVD Release Date: May 29, 2012
  • Run Time: 107 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0079K4WF8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,646 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Film titles are often obscure, exaggerations or misleading but this one is spot on.
If you can be patient with the slow developing and seemingly not going anywhere opening scenes as well as some disjointed flashbacks where the film presents and interweaves different characters, then you're in for a Southern Chinese burlesque style lampooning of the pettiness and greed of Triad gangsters; petty wannabes and financial/banking capitalists. Poignantly, as we listen to each group, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell them apart. Well acted and scripted caricatures of gangsters greedily haggling over small monetary gifts; bankers and financial advisors manipulating and profiting off of the ignorance of vulnerable clients. All within the backdrop of one of many recent market collapses.

The financial, banking and market dialogue was so surprisingly intelligent that I thought I was listening to CNBC analysts selectively rationalize how greed is good, and how expendable people are for the sake of more money.

English subtitling (perhaps a remnant of the British education system) was of better quality than what's found in US English courses. This film continues the excellent script, directing, location and set quality coming from studios as geographically diverse as in Argentina, France and Hong Kong.
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Format: DVD
The movie starts out interesting as a look into Chinese investment banking industry. Brokers are pressured to sell investments. They are pushing BRIC, a portfolio of 20 stocks that invests in firms in Brazil, India, and China...something I personally wouldn't mind owning. It is "high risk." The bank charges 2%. People on low fixed incomes are allowed to invest their life savings in the deal. Teresa (Denise Ho) is one such broker who is torn between ripping people off and doing her job.

Yuen (Hoi-Pang Lo) hates the banking system and keeps his money in liquid savings. When the EU economy crashes, its ripple effect hits Chinese investors. Yuen is now rich as he has money to loan at 30% interest rates. Given a window of opportunity, Teresa manages to obtain a bag of money belonging to Yuen, a man who seems to disgust her. The film's idea of humor is to make puns of BRIC and brick. And:

Who ordered noodles before the banquet?
The fat guy over there.

Later it does engage in more sophisticated humor, even a bit of mild irony.

I was more fascinated when they made an arrest. They said something similar to the Miranda rights and offered the criminal a hood to wear to shield himself from the public, unlike in the US where the cops parade criminals around the police station doing "the walk of shame." Inspector Cheung (Richie Ren) is a straight laced detective/ police officer. His wife Connie (Myolie Wu) wants to lease an apartment out of their price range.

The crime syndicate is a brotherhood, so everyone is confusingly called "brother" or "sister" or "older sister" or "Fourth brother." It is difficult to tell who is blood related and who is not, possibly a translation issue.
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Format: DVD
Although this Johnnie To movie seems to start off a little slow it soon entertwines the stories of three different people, in very different jobs, who are all in need of money for various reasons. This takes place during the global economic downturn of 2009 in the Kowloon district of Hong Kong. It's an interesting story of greed and the lengths people will go to and the principles and morals they will cast aside to attain money. The first main player is Teresa (Denise Ho) a bank loan officer who is not making her quota of customer sales. She pressures customers into investments that are risky at best with no seeming qualms about what this could do to these people's lives if everything crashes. The second player is Inspector Cheung played by Richie Ren, who's wife is trying to buy a luxurious condo in Hong Kong that is really above their means while her inspector husband is busy off trying to solve the murder of a loan shark. The third main player is a gangster named Panther played by Ching-Wan Lau who is anxious to help bail out his mob boss. The interconnections between the three players and others in the movie seems to be a metaphor for the global interconnections of the current financial markets. The movie involves stock trading, corruption, loan sharking, theft and sometimes just plain luck. It's an interesting tale with good acting and good cinematography. It's not your usual Johnnie To shoot 'em up movie but there is violence in it. I give it 4 stars and recommend it if you like stories of financial dealings and don't mind films that are weaved together out of 3 plots to create one movie.
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Format: DVD
"THE UNIVERSAL DESIRE TO IMPROVE ONE'S LOT SPELLS THE EVENTUAL DEMISE OF AN ECONOMIC REGIME BASED ON THE CHEAPEST LABOUR IN THE WORLD, WHOLLY UNPROTECTED EITHER BY TRADE UNIONS OR THE LAW, AND EXPOSED TO THE MOST BRUTAL MARKET FORCES."

--from When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order: Second Edition by Martin Jacques (2009, rev. 2012)
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RATING GUIDE:
***** -- Provides a yardstick by which later artworks & life experiences can be measured.
**** -- F****n' awesome!
*** -- Okay.
** -- Lame.
* -- Sucks.
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PRESUMING ONE ATTENDS international film festivals as cherished opportunities to catch things outside the main-stream & otherwise not-necessarily-available (and NOT just to "pick up chicks"), one could come across, as I did at the year-before-last's P.I.F.F. (Portland International Film Festival), bold new works like this one by Johnny To -- whom I only heard about later, through his distributed-but-underappreciated Drug War (the seams fray in a "haywire" demonstration worthy of Kubrick), at which point everyone acted like they'd heard about him before, all along.

Huh.
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"IN HIS INTRODUCTORY ESSAY, JAMES SAYS THAT THE TWIN SECRETS OF DANTE ARE TEXTURE AND IMPETUS. ALL THE PACKED DETAIL MUST BE THERE, BUT THE THING MUST MOVE.
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