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Life Without Principle(2011)
Three people - a criminal, a bank officer and a cop - end up in a catastrophic situation in the midst of a global economical crisis and are forced to betray any morals and principles to solve their financial problems.
For more about Life Without Principle and the Life Without Principle Blu-ray release, see Life Without Principle Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on November 10, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ching Wan Lau, Terence Yin, Richie Ren, Felix Wong, Denise Ho
Director: Johnnie To
» See full cast & crew
Life Without Principle Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 10, 2012
Selected to represent Hong Kong in the Foreign Language Category of the 85th Academy Awards, Johnnie To's "Dyut meng gam" a.k.a "Life Without Principle" (2011) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Hong Kong-based distributors MegaStar. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer, standard making of featurette, and deleted scenes. In Cantonese, with optional English, Traditional Mandarin, and Simplified Mandarin subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
The plot of the film is comprised of three stories about three people completely unaware of each other's existence. A bag full of money brings them together, but they never exchange a single word. The first is a young bank teller, the second a loyal gangster, and the third an experienced cop trying to maintain some balance between his personal life and professional duties.
Teresa (Denise Ho, Look for a Star, Merry-Go-Round) works for a large bank in the heart of Hong Kong. Each day she is pressured by her supervisor to bring in more clients and sell more investment options. Unable to meet her quota, she decides to sell a packet of high-risk options to an elderly woman who has never invested in her life. After she convinces the woman that she is guaranteed to triple her savings in a couple of months, Teresa is visited by a shady loan shark (Lo Hoi-Pang, Sparrow), who makes her feel bad about her actions. A couple of days later the market crashes, the old woman loses most of her savings, and the loan shark gets killed in the bank's underground garage.
Shortly after flashy gangster Wah (Eddie Cheung, All About Love, Bad Blood) is arrested, Panther (Lau Ching-Wan, Written By, Mad Detective) goes on the streets to find money to bail him out. He meets Lung (Philip Keung, The Viral Factor), a childhood friend, who illegally buys and sells stocks on the Internet. Lung immediately agrees to teach Panther how to make money, but the market crashes and he is forced to look for a large loan to pay back a local crime boss who has invested in his company.
Inspector Cheung (Ritchie Ren, Accident, Fire of Conscience) and his wife Connie (Myolie Wu) have been trying to buy an apartment and settle down, but his busy job has made it impossible for them to look around and find the perfect place. Enormously frustrated, Connie decides to go to the bank and get a loan without him. While discussing the terms of the loan with a bank officer, she learns that her husband is trapped in an elevator with a man holding a large gas canister and threatening to blow himself up.
Selected to represent Hong Kong in the Foreign Language Category of the 85th Academy Awards, Johnnie To's Life Without Principle is a truly unpredictable film, full of sudden twists and wild turns. Its structure and dynamic intensity remind a lot about Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Babel.
While enormously entertaining and loaded with black humor, the film has plenty to say about the increasingly unstable global economic environment and the manner in which it affects the lives of ordinary people. This isn't to say that Johnnie To delivers some sort of a political commentary, but this is clearly the first time he has showed interest in global events affecting everyday life in Hong Kong.
The manner in which the three stories are merged is excellent. Seemingly random events bridge them and in the process key sequences are rearranged to show how the actions of one character affect those of another, even though they are unaware of each other's existence. The editing is especially good, allowing the film to maintain a steady tempo.
As it is always the case with films produced by Johnnie To's Milkyway Image, the acting is excellent. Veteran character actor Lau Ching Wan, however, is clearly a step above everyone else. The loyal gangster he plays brings in a lot of the energy and quirkiness some Johnnie To's acclaimed crime films are known for.
Life Without Principle was lensed by Johnnie To's long-time collaborator Cheng Siu-Keung (Running on Karma, Running Out of Time, Election).
Life Without Principle Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Johnnie To's Life Without Principle arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Hong Kong-based distributors MegaStar.
Definition and clarity are consistently pleasing. Image depth is also very good. Contrast levels are stable, but sharpness levels have been ever so slightly elevated and occasionally it shows. Nevertheless, the film has a stable and pleasing look. Some light compression artifacts occasionally sneak in, but they are never distracting. Color reproduction and color depth, in particular, are very good. There are no serious banding and aliasing anomalies. Finally, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. All in all, though far from exceptional, the presentation should please fans of Johnnie To's latest film. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Life Without Principle Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are four standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Cantonese Dolby TrueHD 7.1, Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, and Mandarin Dolby TrueHD 7.1. For the record, MegaStar have provided optional English, Traditional Mandarin, and Simplified Mandarin subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
I chose the Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track to view Life Without Principle and was very pleased with it. While the film does not have the same sound design Motorway has, depth and the wide range of dynamics are quite impressive. Surround activity is also great, though you should not expect to hear reference-level movement and effects. The dialog is very crisp, stable, clean, and easy to follow. There are no audio dropouts or distortions. The English translation/syntax is good, but I noticed a couple of spelling errors.
Life Without Principle Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: All of the supplemental features are perfectly playable on North American Blu-ray players, including the PS3.
Life Without Principle Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Johnnie To is arguably Hong Kong's most consistently original director. In a sea of big-budget commercial projects financed by Mainland producers, his films truly stand out. The director's latest film, Life Without Principle, which will represent Hong Kong at the Oscars, is both entertaining and surprisingly thought-provoking. Is it a sign of things to come? I don't think it matters. Whatever films Johnnie To ends up directing, they will be worth seeing. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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