*** Life Without Principle (2011)
A departure of sorts for Chinese director Johnnie To, Life Without Principle is a solid dramedy about unbridled greed and consumerism in present day Hong Kong. It isn’t a great film, but To’s talented fingerprints are all over it. It’s a cautionary tale about an event that’s already come to pass – the collapse of ethics in a world dominated solely by money and the desire to acquire more and more stuff. The plot follows three seemingly-disconnected characters – a bank teller turned in-house investment broker struggling to meet her monthly sales quota, a cop and his wife in the middle of buying into a looney housing market far outside what they can reasonably afford (sound familiar?) and a low level crook who works endless scams trying to help (and bail) out his wiseguy buddies. To’s main goal here seems to be to confront us with the realities of our morally bankrupt world and then to follow the trail to its natural, but nicely cinematic, conclusion.
We’ve only got it at the FBW on a legit Chinatown Blu-ray for now, but when it gets a wider North American release, we should grab a few. It’s interesting to see where we’re all heading because Hong Kong might just be the epicenter of greed and avarice. It’s like gazing into a crystal ball.