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February 07, 2013

The Thieves

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Choi Dong-hoon - 2012
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

Who doesn't like caper movies, especially when they are done well? The Thieves confidently takes from past films with the theft of a diamond from a casino, with the added perks of some of the latest technology plus a couple of old school scams, adding the undercover cop to the mix. This is somewhat familiar territory to anyone who's seen Bob le Flambeur, which arguably set the scene for this kind of story, as well as the two versions of Ocean's Eleven. What Choi also adds is a pan-Asian cast, that is also a mixed gendered team, where the women do more than provide eye candy.

The film hops between Korea, Hong Kong and Macau, where the grand theft takes place. The Korean gang has their own inner tensions, with two formal partners, now rivals, getting together with a Chinese gang. Cultural animosity is set aside, but the newly formed confederacy finds themselves caught between an unknown criminal mastermind as well as the police. Even after the heist, which takes place about midway, are a series of unexpected twists and turns.

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There's even some time for a cross cultural romance between the two oldest members of the team, played by Simon Yam and Kim Hae-suk. The two seem weary of their lives of crime. The two pretend to be a married couple with a taste for high stakes gambling, but it is the gamble they take on each other that is unexpectedly affecting.

Even though the film is suppose to be an ensemble piece, it belongs mostly to two actresses, Gianna Jun and Kim Hye-su. Both actresses, like the rest of the cast, did their own stunts, but Jun and Kim had among the most physically demanding roles. Jun is the thief Yenicall, known for her skills breaking and entering while suspended from wires. Jun is also seen in the shortest skirts, and body fitting outfits. In one of the film's several comic scenes, Yenicall finds being the sexiest team member can only get her so far when a man targeted for seduction turns out to be gay. Kim plays Pepsee, a recently paroled safe cracker who's been involved with the two rival Korean gang leaders. A heist gone wrong, with Pepsee caught in the middle is played out in flashbacks.

The film threatens to sprawl out of control with one of the several sub-plots during the second half, only to wrap things up in a not quite neat circle. The Korean title more accurately translates as "The Professionals". One action set piece follows another that during the few moments when the characters have to stop to catch a breath, it's also welcome relief for the viewer.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at February 7, 2013 08:44 AM