I understand the comparisons to the Ocean’s 11/12/13 movies. This is after all a heist flick. The title frankly says so. The Thieves, too, rocking an all-star cast, were robbing a casino through an intricate web of a plan that sometimes felt so effortless it must have been random. But to be fair to this blockbuster, the comparisons should end there.
Director Choi Dong Hoon took the daunting task of helming this action-packed movie with no less than a handful of Korea’s high-profile actors. Each had his and her own unique style that collided into a perfect combustion of energy and charisma. See, unlike Ocean’s crew, this similarly attractive bunch did not particularly like each other. Their contrasting personalities and mutual distrust paved the way for the many twists and turns in the plot.
The film starts off with a regular day-in-the-life of ploy of middle-aged alcoholic Chewing Gum (Kim Hae Sook) and cat burglar Yenicall (Jun Ji Hyun), posing as mother and daughter. With Yenicall’s successful seduction of the wealthy owner of Leesung Gallery, the pair manage to steal a rare artifact, assisted by the expert wire work of leader Popie (Lee Jung Jae) and his young Skywalker, Zampano (Kim Soo Hyun). Not too pleased with the proceeds of this heist, and jumpy from the persistent police trail, the gang is quickly enamored by Popie’s new plan. A trip to Hong Kong and Macau, banding with Popie’s old partner Macao Park (Kim Yeon Seok) and some Chinese thieves to steal the Tear of the Sun diamond. Black market value: $20 million. Heist, on.
In its 136-minute run, the movie pulls you into the thieves’ seemingly impossible scheme as they attempt to sleekly steal from a heavily guarded casino. And as the plan is laid out, so do each thief’s motive and dirty laundry. Chewing Gum and Chinese gangster Chen (Simon Yam) internalized their ploy as a married Japanese couple so much that they decide to retire and fall in love, triggering the first glitch in the plan. Yenicall, absorbed with her trashy-sexy cat burglar persona, charmingly derides the advances of the younger Zampano, until he gets a chance to prove himself. Julie (Angelica Lee), daughter of the famed safecracker, defeats her demons and gets her win. The beautiful Pepsee (Kim Hye Soo), out on parole with hurt in her heart and vengeance in her mind, finally gets the revelations she deserved from old friends Popie and Macao Park. Popie, the head game master, comically realizes that he was not in control. He never really was, not with Macao Park, the ghost of his past, haunting his trail.
The Thieves is one sleek ride, framed by the beautiful shots of Seoul skyscrapers, Macao casinos, Busan neighborhoods and Hong Kong grit. If you left the edge of your seat wanting more, then the Thieves got you. As the characters kept tossing to each other: what is now so wrong for a thief to do?
Photo and video credits to owners.