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One Armed Boxer

The Thieves (2012)

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'The Thieves', arguably the Korean cinema event of the year, as well as currently being the most watched Korean movie of all time, came to cinemas in Australia last week....so obviously, I was there to check it out.

Featuring a cast that reads like a who's who of who's hot on the Korean cinema scene right now, as well as throwing in some of Chinas top talent as well, you know you're going to be in for something special with a movie that has Kim Yoon-seok ('The Yellow Sea', 'The Chaser'), Lee Jeong-jae ('Typhoon', 'Il Mare'), Kim Hae-sook ('Thirst', 'Eye for an Eye'), Oh Dal-soo ('The Good, The Bad, The Weird', 'A Bittersweet Life'), a mere cameo role from Sin Ha-gyoon ('Save the Green Planet', 'No Mercy for the Rude'), and for this viewer at least, best of all Jeon Ji-hyeon ('Windstruck', 'My Sassy Girl'), starring in her first Korean movie for 5 years and looking sexier than ever. Throw in the Chinese talent of Simon Yam (too many to mention), Angelica Lee ('Divergence', 'The Eye''), and Derek Tsang ('Dream Home', 'Run Papa Run'), and hopefully nothing can go wrong.

Thankfully, nothing does. Drawing comparisons with Hollywood's 'Oceans 11/12/13' movies, and rightfully so, 'The Thieves' did for me what none of those movies could - provided characters that had motivations people could relate to, cinematography which looked endlessly cool without ever seeming like it was just being cool for the sake of it, comedy which was effortlessly funny, a story which didn't just have a prized possession at stake, but also lives, feelings, and relationships, and of course, thrilling action scenes.

Almost all of the Korean friends I went to see it with said it felt more like an old Hong Kong movie than a completely new Korean one, and it's hard to disagree. By old Hong Kong movie though, we're talking more John Woo's 'Once A Thief' (a movie which is hugely popular in Korea) than any kung-fu flick, which 'The Thieves' doesn't have any of. But it doesn't need it, tension is kept up throughout along with a killer script which often see's the Chinese team (led by Yam) and Korean crew scoping each other out with hilarious results. On a sidenote it was great to see a Korean / China co-production with both cultures being given equal respect in the script, the scene when they first meet each other and both are discussing their mistrust of the other by listing off all of the usual racial stereotypes had everyone in the audience laughing.

The movie is a fairly globe trotting affair, taking in Seoul, Busan, Shanghai, Hong Kong, & Macau - the gambling capital of the world where the heist at the center of the plot takes place. The final quarter of the movies 2 hour 20 minutes run-time is almost all action, featuring a scene which essentially takes the brief gun fight while abseiling down the side of a building scene from Tsui Hark's 'Time & Tide', and expands it to a several minutes long multiple opponent sideways showdown which is great to watch. The fact that in the middle of it all Jeong Ji-hyeon takes a shower makes it even better.

A completely unexpected twist in the final third makes things very interesting, and ensures the movie never becomes boring for a moment. As double crosses unfold and lies become uncovered, everything heads for a satisfying conclusion that had me leaving the cinema with a smile on my face. 'The Thieves' is pure entertainment, and you'd have to be pretty jaded to not get a kick out of it. Choi Dong-hoon has always been a reliable commercial director, previously making 'The Big Swindle, 'Tazza: The High Rollers', and most recently 'Jeon Woo Chi: The Taoist Wizard', but all of these seem like a warm up for 'The Thieves', in which he's really hit his stride. I'll be really looking forward to see what he comes up with next.

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turned out very solid as expected. nothing awesome unfortunately, but very well done entertainment all in all.

big budget asian mainstream cinema fans and genre buffs must check it out no doubt. 7/10

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Actually impressed by (most of) the CG work...or green screen rather. The CG was dodgy. I hope there's more cross over International cinema like this in the future instead of watching great foreigners fizzle out in Hollywood.

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First, I forgot to say- Great review One Armed Boxer! :smile: Somehow I hadn't heard anything about this film, and I looked for it based on your write up.

I was not disappointed. It's a clever flick with an exceptional cast, stunning cinematography, and plenty of unpredictable, yet sensible plot twists. One of the climactic bits is a shootout on the side of a building that had my stomach flip flopping from vertigo! And Simon Yam is too cool for school in his role. One of my favorites of the seemingly hundreds of roles I've seen him play. They filmed the car action shots in a uniquely atypical manner that was both refreshing, and a little nerve-racking. Though it has some deep and dark moments woven into it's story, overall the film has a fun, somewhat light-hearted tone to it. Highly enjoyable. I rate it an 8/10

Well-Go has released another excellent looking Blu-Ray. Uncut, in it's original language with great English subtitles, and without any tampering to the soundtrack, editing, etc, just like we fans want. :nerd:Ya hear that Weinsteins?! :neutral:

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This played at the local "art house" cinema probably a month or so back. And, I "missed it by that much"! Then, Netflix gets it. Wow. Good movie. Nice plot. Hot women. Good action at the end. Only real complaint was some of the "contrived" love angles thrown in. Was surprised.

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I thought the movie was decent. One Armed Boxer's comparison to a Hong Kong movie is pretty spot on - it reminded me a lot of a Lunar New Year film, just throw a bunch of actors in and let the movie cruise by on their star power. I don't know if I would buy it, but it was worth checking out on instant Netflix.

Here's my full review

http://hkfilm.net/movrevs/2/thieves.htm

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Here be spoilers:

Okay, so I finally got around to watching this and it was really good. It's convoluted and it can be hard to keep track of who's doing what and to who, but it's never boring. I love that it transforms from a caper into an all-out action movie in the final third. The shootout in and around the building rivals the one seen in Time and Tide, and that means a lot coming from me, as Hark's movie is a personal favorite. But my favorite aspect of the movie was the double turn they pulled. We think Popie is our asshole, antihero protagonist and Macao Park is his villainous rival. Then they pull rug out from under you, and they switch roles. Fun stuff.

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