Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:
Johnnie To’s latest, entitled “Life Without Principle,” combines the financial-and-business-sector setting of his last film, the romantic comedy “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” with his customary gangster milieu. It’s organized around the Greek debt crisis, which To uses to highlight his familiar themes of loyalty, risk, chance, and human interdependence. Money rules the day here, and as you might expect it’s a capricious mistress: the characters wish for it, curse it, bet on it, kill for it. But To avoids making simplistic moral points. Rather, he uses money as he did the missing gun in his 2003 “PTU” — as a device to connect the characters and spur them to interaction. Aiding him in this is a switchback structure, blatantly lifted from “Pulp Fiction,” which artfully overlaps each storyline and underscores how cause and effect play out within the plot. (Rarely have the whims of financial markets been so cleverly compared to the fickleness that characterizes everyday human relationships.) As with most of To’s films, there’s little here that will impress as high art, but the movie sings in its calm precision, its quietly modulated tone. Johnnie To has more control over what he puts on screen than just about any director currently working.