Monday, October 24, 2011

Life Without Principle [ Movie Review ]

Life Without Principle Movie Review

With the financial gloom looming in near future, director Johnnie To's cinematic take on the financial crisis came at the right time. Divided into three stories, Life without Principle examine how the common folks are affected by the financial market.

Teresa (Denise Ho), an investment banker was forced to push high risk investment to her greedy but ignorant customer in order to meet the business quota. Panther (Sean Lau Ching Wan), a loyal but somewhat dim witted triad member who gets enrolled into futures market stocks when he tried to bailout a fellow triad member. A dedicated police inspector Cheung (Ritchie Jen) gets drawn into financial burden when his fiancee Connie (Myolie Wu) decided to place a down payment without coming to an agreement with him. Three unrelated individuals and their respective problems somehow intertwine when they cross path with loan shark Yuen (Lo Hoi Pang).

The problem with Life Without Principle would be the split into three stories. The stories were riveting on it's own and showed potential to be more than what it was presented in this movie. There's no time to go in-depth with each character's dilemma and the problems that they faced varies so differently from each other that it does not complement each other well.

But then again, there are gems in these stories. In particular, my favorite segment would be that of Teresa, the bank teller segment. We get placed in her shoes and gets a better understanding why some bank tellers would sell high risk investments to their customers. The unpleasantness of a competitive field and the fear of getting left behind could be overwhelming at times. The depiction of how some elderly people loses their life savings through greed and ignorant were also a painful reminder of real stories in financial investments. Life without Principle marks the first time that I took note of Denise Ho's performance. I felt that she got on screen charisma and the camera seems to love her. I am interested to see what this Hong Kong Cantopop singer will take on for her next movie.

On the flip side, Lau Ching Wan's take on the righteous but bumbling gangster was the most amusing segment of these three. It invokes memories of his performance in the TVB series The Greed of Man in which that an amateur started to dabble on stocks speculation. It's entertaining in most part but it took quite some time before it started to have anything to do with the stock markets and it could be quite a drag if one is anxious to know what's the linkage to the financial aspect of the story.

The less satisfying segment would be the one with Cheung (Ritchie Jen) and Connie (Myolie Wu) investment in a pricy Hong Kong apartment. A lot more could have been done for this aspect of financial woes but it meanders with Cheung getting new police cases and a half sister that he is apparently not aware of. This segment ties with loan shark Yuen and the other two segment were also the last satisfying one.

In closing, this movie didn't exactly live up to both it's English and Chinese title. The Chinese title for this movie is 夺命金 (duo ming jin or the gold that seize or deprive one's life) but the movie didn't exactly go to that extreme to illustrate that effect. Neither did the main characters in this movie did anything that radical that would be deem as without principle. But overall, it's a interesting peek at how money affect the common folks and how the financial world operates.

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