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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Life Without Principle (Dyut meng gam) (2011)

Life Without Principle (Dyut meng gam) (2011)

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Released 12-Dec-2012

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Drama Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Eastern Eye trailers x 4
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 102:18
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Johnnie To

Madman Entertainment
Starring Kin-Yee Au
Ka-kit Cheung
Ben Wong
Nai-Hoi Yau
Tin-Shing Yip
Terence Yin
Ching Wan Lau
Richie Ren
Vincent Sze
Felix Wong
Denise Ho
Case Alpha-Transparent
RPI ? Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

“Greed is human nature”

     Inspector Cheung (Richie Ren) is a policeman trying to sort out a dispute in an apartment block between two elderly men that has turned violent. His wife Connie (Mayolie Wu) has her heart set on buying an investment apartment, but needs to raise some money. Teresa (Denise Ho) is an investment banker who is not meeting her monthly sales target and is in danger of getting the sack. One of her clients is the loan shark Yuen (Hoi-Pang Lo), who has plenty of cash to invest as long as it returns high interest rates. Panther (Ching Wan Lau) is a low level loyal, “honest” gangster, short on funds himself but ready to raise cash to meet friends’ bail. His old friend Lung (Philip Keung) plays the stock market with Triad money and is making a nice profit for himself. All their destinies change when the GFC results in the crash of the Hong Kong stock market and the wiping out of investments; some will resort to robbery and dishonesty with wide-ranging, and often unexpected, consequences.

     Life Without Principle (Dyut meng gam), is a film from director / producer Johnnie To. To is an interesting and inventive director; his best films, like the excellent Election (2005) or Mad Detective (2007), contain action but are more about character and events. Despite the DVD cover art of Life Without Principle, which shows a man with a gun and a masked robbery, it is not an action film in any real sense but a series of barely interconnecting stories linked together by money, greed and the GFC.

     Life Without Principle is a film that takes its time to introduce the characters, most of whom have no connection with each other. Then, little by little, it adds extra layers, and we find that the film in fact does not have a linear chronology, but a circular structure where later we see one pivotal event, and events before and following, from different perspectives. There are also other instances of the circular time-line but the conceit is not overdone; however, it means that the viewer is seldom sure of just were we are in the line-line of the film’s chronology.

     Life Without Principle is well served by its cast, with Ching Wan Lau perhaps the standout as the somewhat slow-witted gangster, although all deliver good, low-key, natural performances. No-one is a hero here, and no-one has all the answers when financial ruin looms. It is a gradually evolving film and anyone expecting a full on action film will be disappointed; but if you appreciate an intelligent, clever film with excellent characterisations, or if you enjoy To’s films, you will not be disappointed with Life Without Principle.

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Transfer Quality


     Life Without Principle is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     This is not a particularly sharp print. Close-up detail is acceptable, but colours are generally soft and muted. Blacks and shadow detail are OK, although brightness and contrast does vary, and some scenes come over as quite glary.

     Other than some minor aliasing on vertical surfaces, and some ghosting with motion, artefacts were absent. There was a fair amount of shimmering with the end titles.

     The layer change at 64:39 resulted in a slight pause.

    Subtitles in American English are in an easy to read yellow font. They seemed to be timely and I did not notice any spelling or grammatical errors.

     A soft print, but otherwise without major technical issues.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is a choice of either Cantonese or Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps. I listened mostly to the Cantonese audio.

     Dialogue was clear and centred, and this is a film with a lot of dialogue. There was not a lot for the surrounds to do but they did carry music and ambient effects, such as traffic and storm sounds. The sub-woofer added some minor bass to the music and thunder.

     Lip synchronisation in the Cantonese audio was good. From the sections of the Mandarin audio I sampled it seems that an attempt has been made to match the lip movement; the variances are noticeable, but this seemed better than other Mandarin dubs I have watched.

     The music in Life Without Principle was as varied as the characters in the film. One theme using piano and orchestra was very effective, another theme was a vocal mix that sounded very familiar - like a 1960s Hollywood track but I cannot place it, which is annoying me! Very different, and thus calling attention to itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer (2:17)

Eastern Eye Trailers

     Trailers for Motorway (1:32), A Million (1:44), Exiled (2:22) and Quick (2:04).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There does not seem to be a Region 2 UK version of Life Without Principle at present, but there are Region 1 US, Region 3 HK and Region 6 China versions. The HK release includes the trailer, a making-of and deleted scenes, but all versions are listed as being in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The IMDb gives the original aspect ratio as 2.35:1; other than the Region A Chinese Blu-ray, our Region 4 DVD is the only version available in the correct 2.35:1 ratio. To my mind, a win to Region 4 where DVD is concerned.


     Those expecting a full on action film will be disappointed, but if you like an intelligent, clever film with excellent characterisations, or if you enjoy To’s films, Life Without Principle will not disappoint.

     The video is acceptable, the audio fine. A trailer is the only relevant extra.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, March 01, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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