The old adage goes ‘there’s no honor among thieves’ but the South Korean blockbuster that is aptly titled The Thieves expands and complicates this saying, and it does so with gusto. A heist is planned with two different groups called together by the mysterious Macao Park. We never meet him but he gathers two very diverse teams from South Korea led by Popie (Jung-Jae Lee) and Hong Kong led by Chen (Simon Yam) to Macau where they work together despite questionable motives and loyalties to obtain a precious jewel locked up in a casino. Despite the highlight that is the heist itself, The Thieves continually dazzles with amazing scenes of incredible fun and ingenious twists. The film in fact begins just as strongly as it ends, with one of the strongest opening sequences in recent memory. A clever and hilarious con devised by sexy cat burglar Yenicall (Gianna Jun) nets Popie’s team a small reward, and sets the exciting pace and effortless fun that is to follow.
Yennicall (Gianna Jun) in action.
I have seen The Thieves three times, and each time was as refreshing and fun as the last. It is a film with so much aplomb and energy, that it has reserves of it, enough for a trilogy! It broke box office records in South Korea and performed incredibly well theatrically here also. It barely registers as a commercial product however; truly a mature blockbuster that goes outside the box. The plot is layered and intelligent and the plot twists justified. There is so much that works but the real strength of The Thieves really lies with the actors. The ‘thieves’ are comprised of a brilliant and cohesive cast that play off each other effortlessly. Throughout the film there is natural character development and situations that connect or sever the various relationships and to watch these power plays and inner-group politics emerge is fascinating. Each character brings something fresh to the film and the web that is woven through the characters is a thinly veiled one; how that web fares is a trilling guessing game.
The film greatly benefits from its co-production also. The strength of both the Hong Kong and South Korean film industry is fully realized in the film. The production value is astronomical and there are some epic set pieces and of course the actual locations in the film are used to their best advantage and captured perfectly in frame. The film borrows from both industries and the tropes of both cultures are not only evident in The Thieves, but respected.
The Thieves is a perfect mix of drama, action and comedy. It is well crafted and a product of love. The moments for flashbacks and reveals are perfectly timed and all the elements of a good heist movie are utilized and appreciated, if given a little facelift. Essentially, and without spoiling any of the plot there are half-a-dozen other amazing characters I have not mentioned and so many sub-plots that intricately intertwine through the main narrative. It is so hard to find any faults or negatives with The Thieves, it may be the most perfect purely fun film I have ever seen. It just exudes it in spades. See The Thieves!
On to the Blu-ray disc and Madman have used the Well Go USA transfer, which, aside from the unskippable ads pre-menu is a complete winner. The extremely vibrant and crisp 1080p looks sublime, particularly in establishing shots and highlighting the luscious diverse urban-scapes. The quality suffers very slightly in mid-range shots but this is a minor quibble. The sound is perfectly adjusted and the lossless 5.1 DTS track is an absolute pleasure as every sound comes through despite the background urban noise.
The disc has two extras, neither are meaty, but they are interesting. The making-of flies through scenes in less than five minutes and during this time we get the director’s insights, stunt-work, locations and the actors praising one another. It is eye-opening how extremely vivid this featurette is, it is basically life-like in quality, albeit too brief. Finding out the actors did a lot of the stunts themselves further attests to the films quality and dedication for all involved. The synergy of the actors is brought up and this cooperation and love for the film is wholly evident in the end product. Meet the Thieves is the other extra and it is an all-too-brief, basically pointless insight into a few of the core cast. Do not watch this if you have not seen the film.
Catty cat burglars
I love The Thieves, and am so happy it is available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray in such a lovingly transferred way in Australia thanks to Madman Entertainment. What are you waiting for?
Kwenton Bellette - follow Kwenton Twitter here: @Kwenton
Kwenton Bellette is extremely passionate about Asian film and the resurgence of new waves taking place in Korea, Japan and China in the last 10 years. He joined the global site Twitchfilm in 2009, is the artistic director of the Fantastic Asia Film Festival is Melbourne and currently studies a film masters degree at Melbourne University. He is very excited to raise further awareness of the what he thinks is the most exciting film industry in the world.