The Root of All Evil | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Root of All Evil 

Johnnie To’s Life Without Principle is a thriller about investment banking

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A dance with death, and scotch, in Johnnie To's Life Without Principle.

A dance with death, and scotch, in Johnnie To's Life Without Principle.

Johnnie To's second film of 2011 about the investment banking industry (after the romantic comedy Don't Go Breaking My Heart) is one of his very best, an entertainment that also offers an impassioned critique of corruption in contemporary life. Structured like a fugu7e, it weaves together three stories—about a low-level hood, a naive young banker, and a stoic police detective, all of whom get sucked into the speculation economy—and To moves fluidly between tragedy and comedy even as he steadily builds suspense. Despite having very little on-screen violence, this Hong Kong import often feels like an action movie, its portrayal of the financial markets as tense and exhilarating as any of To's celebrated gunfights. In Cantonese with subtitles.

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