The heist film has a proud tradition. Intricate scheming, double-crosses, unexpected hurdles and, of course, the Team of Specialists. South Korea’s latest entry into the genre, The Thieves ticks all the boxes and yet manages to still be a fun romp all the same.
The story centres on career criminal Popie (Jung-Jae Lee) and his tight-knit band of thieves, including cat burglar Yenicall (the gorgeous Gianna Jun from Blood: The Last Vampire and My Sassy Girl), veteran disguise expert Chewingum (Hae-suk Kim from Thirst) and safecracker Pepsee (Hye-su Kim from The Red Shoes), newly released from prison.
They are invited by Popie’s ex-partner, Macao Park (Yun-seok Kim from The Chaser) to join him and a team of Chinese thieves in going after the Tear of the Sun, a massive diamond with a US$20million price tag, currently in the hands of a legendary Hong Kong gangster.
The teams do not trust each other, but are forced to work together in a complex strategy to nab the diamond from a casino. Naturally, the plan comes unstuck and the gang quickly find themselves hunted by people on both sides of the law.
A review snippet on the cover of the Blu-Ray of The Thieves describes it as, “South Korea’s Oceans Eleven” and that is a fair assessment. This is big-budget filmmaking with a stellar cast and a sprawling feel as it takes in various extravagant locations and action set-pieces.
The difference may be that, where Soderbergh’s Eleven had an air of smugness and a casual feel, The Thieves is very much aimed at delivering on all counts. Director Dong-Hoon Choi really packs his film with plot twists, character revelations, humour and some terrific stunts. The latter includes a stand-out extended chase sequence that includes a spectacular game of cat-and-mouse while dangling from a building by ropes.
The shortcomings of the film come from its very nature. Even at a running time of over two hours, there are a lot of characters to juggle, so most get painted in two-dimensions to keep them identifiable. The plot switches are also pretty au fait for this style of movie and it would take quite a naive viewer to be genuinely surprised at any point.
Despite these, The Thieves is a great slice of entertainment. It is a bombastic Hollywood blockbuster, done Korean-style. It never takes itself too seriously and even manages to squeeze some genuine emotion in. A charming, fun film.
The extras are a bit thin – there is a ‘Making Of’, but that is only six minutes of rapid-fire footage and provides little depth beyond showing that the actors performing a surprising amount of their own stunts.
Other than the usual array of trailers, there is also a five-minute, “Meet the Thieves” fluff piece. This is an EPK-style extra with a few of the lead actors saying a word or two about their characters.
DIRECTOR(S): Dong-Hoon Choi | COUNTRY: South Korea | YEAR 2012 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Madman | RUNNING TIME: 135 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 16:9 | REGION: B | DISCS: 1