Director: Choi Dong-hun
Writer: Choi Dong-hun, Lee Gi-cheol
Producer: Ahn Soo-hyun
Cast: Yun-seok Kim, Lee Jung-jae, Kim Hye-soo, Jun Ji-Hyun (Gianna Jun), Simon Yam, Angelica Lee, Derek Tsang
Running Time: 136 min.
The easy marketing spin for “The Thieves” was to label the film as Korea’s answer to “Ocean’s Eleven.” I suppose that means we can add the movie to the list of other Korean blockbusters, like “Quick” or “Sector 7,” that feel slightly derivative of Hollywood works but are perfectly serviceable pieces of pop entertainment in their own right. The good news is that “The Thieves” is actually superior to those aforementioned films. Filled with glamour and style to spare, the case could be made that “The Thieves” is much more than serviceable.
Directed by Dong-Hoon Choi (“Tazza: The High Rollers”), the film follows a group of highly talented thieves with pop culture-based nicknames like Popeye and Pepsi. While laying low from their most recent gig, a former associate emerges from hiding to offer them the heist of a lifetime. The team decides the gig is too good to pass up and they soon find themselves traveling all over Asia, from Seoul to Hong Kong and Macau, on the hunt for a precious diamond. Along the way they must try to get along with a group of Chinese thieves, including veteran Hong Kong actor Simon Yam, and avoid the wrath of the diamond’s owner – a vicious crime lord.
Populated by some of the biggest stars in South Korea, including Jung-Jae Lee (“The Housemaid”) and Yun-seok Kim (star of Cityonfire.com favorite “The Chaser“), the film is moved along at a brisk pace thanks to the actors’ charm and a globe-hopping screenplay. Consequently, “The Thieves” doesn’t feel nearly as long as its daunting 135 minute runtime.
Asian cinema buffs should get a thrill out of the Pan-Asian feel of the movie – it’s not often we get to see Korean actors performing alongside famous Cantonese-speaking stars like Simon Yam or Angelica Lee (“Re-Cycle”). The only real downside is that this means the movie requires subtitles for Korean-speaking audiences, besides the requisite subs for us English speakers. At times the action onscreen can become a bit obscured by all the white text.
Aside from a few “Ghost Protocol“-style aerial stunts during the middle of the movie, “The Thieves” is not exactly what one would call an action movie. That said, a large part of the film’s final act is devoted to an extended setpiece in a Korean apartment building. This action sequence feels like the tenement shootout from Tsui Hark’s “Time and Tide” crossed with the opening parkour chase from “Casino Royale” – derivative, yes, but completely exhilarating at the same time. That’s a statement that could be applied to the movie as a whole. “The Thieves” is an inconsequential but consummately crafted blockbuster. It’s not much of a gamble to suggest that fans of Korean cinema will enjoy the ride.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 7.5/10