Director Johnnie To (The Heroic Trio, Election, Exiled) has been known for bringing fast paced action films to the screen, until now. With his latest film Life Without Principle he takes a sharp turn into a slowly unfolding financial thriller that is both a testament to the aggressive greed and fanatical wealth hoarding that grips so many of the people in contemporary Hong Kong.
The film tells the story of three characters. First, there is financial analyst Teresa (Denise Ho) who is forced to sell high-risk securities to customers in order to keep her job. Then comes Panther (Lau Ching Wan), a small time thug who messes around with the futures index in order to make enough money to post bail for a friend. Finally, Cheung Ching Fong (Richie Ren) is an upright and honest police inspector suddenly plunged into financial misfortune when his wife presses him with an ultimatum. In desperate need of money, each character is forced to make questionable choices when a middle-aged loan shark is killed for his bag of millions and a whole lot of money suddenly turns up “available.”
Director To brings out solid performances from his alumni cast, who deliver unflinching looks at a time of financial strain when desperation and compromise can make even the best of us act like ruthless maniacs. The Vancouver Film Festival had this to say of To’s directorial excellence: “[He] shows his mastery of urban space, tension, and action … [and is] one of contemporary cinema’s preeminent visual structuralists.”
Catch Life Without Principle at this year’s PIFF35. Showing on Sunday February 12 at 8 PM (Whitsell Auditorium), Tuesday February 21 at 6:15 PM (Lloyd Mall 6), and Thursday February 23 at 8:45 PM (Cinemagic).