Director: Choi Dong-hoon
Starring: Jeon Ji-hyun, Simon Yam, Lee Sin-je, Kim Yun-seok, Lee Jung-jae, Kim Hye-su, Oh Dal-su, Kim Hae-suk
In order to get their hands on the legendary “Tears of the Sun,” an exquisite and extremely valuable diamond, Macao Park (Kim Yoon-seok) organizes two different groups of swindlers into one team in order to pull off a seemingly impossible heist. The Korean faction, led by Popie (Lee Jung-jae) and the Hong Kong team, led by Chen (Simon Yam), must put aside their differences and distrust to work together, but is there really such a thing as ‘honor among thieves’?
Appearing in all of Choi’s films to date, actor Kim Yoon-seok dominates the screen with his presence and clearly establishes himself as the leader of the characters as well as the very talented cast. He is cool and calm, and portrays the keen intelligence and ability necessary to institutes such a scheme. Jeon Ji-hyun and Kim Hye-soo smolder on screen as two beautiful thieves who have a catty relationship, born of both being the solo beauty of the group but now forced to collaborate. Their exchanges are among the most fun in the film. Not to be undone, the HK cast steps up with the incomparable Simon Yam doing his thing and the always welcome Angelica Lee. All told, the cast is excellent, everyone seems to have a lot of fun, and the chemistry is truly evident on screen.
In terms of production, the film looks and sounds great. Obviously influenced by the Ocean’s films of Soderbergh, the film keeps it cool and hip with a well edited style and some fantastic camera movement. While the film is, for the most part, light on action, the last act’s phenomenal chase/gunfight sequence ranks among some of the most entertaining action scenes to come out of Korea in years. A dizzying gun fight on the outside of an apartment building evokes the modern action classic Time and Tide, but this scene even manages to surpass that with its phenomenal staging and well-choreographed action. It is another reason why I truly prefer the use of real stuntwork over the use of visual effects in action, it just looks better.
The music is solid, though no music truly stands out. It does serve its purpose and the incidental music cues and action background music are spot on and effective. Art direction is good and the sets are large but populated. Macau, I’ve heard, is a very beautiful city, and the film certainly paints a great portrait. The few effects shots are well done and definitely demonstrate an improvement in Korean animation.
Director Choi Dong-hoon revisits the crime genre with the very fun and breezily directed ‘The Thieves.’ Becoming the biggest box office success in Korean film history, Thieves smashed admissions records and features a great international cast. It is a heck of a lot of fun, and the multiple twists and turns will have you guessing throughout. With as much fun as this film is, it is easy to see why it has been such a success.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: The Big Swindle, Tazza, Kurosagi, Liar Game
Special Thanks to Well Go USA for providing a viewing copy!