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April 25, 2013

Movie Review: The Thieves (2012, Blu-ray)

Directed by Dong-hoo Choi

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Popie (Lee Jung-Jae), Yenicall (Gianna Jun), Chewingum (Kim Hae-Suk) and Zampano (Kim Soo-Hyun) are a group of highly sophisticated thieves working in South Korea. Utilizing a variety of James Bond-like stunts, their heists are all meticulously planned and executed. After they score a valuable antique vase, they hear from Macao Park (Kim Yun-Seok) in which he proposes a highly lucrative new job at his namesake, the super-gambling island Mecca of Macau. He even manages to recruit former cohort and lover Pepsee (Kim Hye-Soo) to join in, even if she took the fall for his bungled gold theft the years previously. Freshly released from prison, Pepsee then joins Macau and the others in Hong Kong where they team up with four local Hong Kong thieves Chen (Simon Yam), Andrew (Oh Dal-Su), Julie (Angelica Lee) and Johnny (Kwok Cheung Tsang).

Macao Park then lays out the plan. Their mission is to steal the "Tear of Sun" diamond currently in the possession of ruthless criminal Wei Yong, stashed in the suite room of a Macau casino & resort. Macao Park tells his crew that he can easily unload the diamond for $20 million dollars, insuring that all will be set for life if they are successful.

“Too many cooks spoil the broth,” as they say, and the gang of ten all have their own agendas. The plan to steal the diamond goes terribly, terribly wrong and some members of the gang wind up paying for it with their lives. The surviving gang members then plot to bring whoever is responsible to justice, but to quote another cliche -- is there truly "no honor among thieves?"

Coming directly behind Avatar and The Host, The Thieves was South Korea's third largest grossing film of all time. Whether this will translate to western audiences is largely a matter of taste. This is clearly an instance of a film bending over backwards to entertain, and to these tired occidental eyes much of The Thieves came out as being overly luscious and manipulative. For an action thriller, it's amazingly free of grit. There is none of the expected  gory deaths and nudity one usually associates with action-thrillers stateside, and the death of two of the thieves is especially schmaltzy and predictable.

Also hindering enjoyment of The Thieves is the fact that it is overstuffed with too many characters. All of the thieves have distinct personalities and special talents, but unless one was to factor in a five-hour running time, these figures go by largely undeveloped. The closest one can describe The Thieves is to an Indian “Bollywood” musical without musical numbers.

There is some fun to be had if the viewer plops down with a sextet of ale and lets all the action and melodrama go whizzing past without concern for certain story details. Overall, this reviewer found The Thieves overly busy and too antiseptic to maintain interest.  

Bonus materials include two behind-the-scenes featurettes with all of the actors signing off with broad happy smiles, “We hope you enjoy seeing me in this movie!”

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