Choi Dong-hoon’s The Thieves

Featuring a very large budget and some of the best Asian actors, Korea’s take on “Ocean’s Eleven” is mainstream cinema at its best.

Popie, Yenicall, Chewinggum and Zampano are a team of professional thieves who are willing to do everything to achieve their goals. After a successful heist, Popie’s former “associate”, Macao Park contacts him and informs him of a very lucrative job that is to take place in Macau. At the same time, Pepsee, the third member of the previous team and Park’s ex-lover is released from prison.

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Popie’s current team agrees to take on the new job and they take along Pepsee, without informing Park. When they arrive in Hong Kong, a separate team awaits them, consisting of Chen, Andrew, Julie and Johnny. All of them must now cooperate to steal a legendary diamond named “Tear of the Sun.” However, as tensions rise between the members, everyone seems to have his own agenda.

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Choi Dong Hoon directs a film that screams “blockbuster” from the beginning, with a great cast including Kim Yun-seok, Kim Hye-soo, Lee Jung-jae, the gorgeous Gianna Jun, Oh Dal-su, the great Simon Yam, and Angelica Lee, among others. Furthermore, with location shoots in Seoul, Busan, Macau and Hong Kong, and action scenes taking place in skyscrapers, streets and in a block of flats, it becomes obvious that the producers were not afraid to spend money, in a tactic that eventually paid off, with “The Thieves” currently being the fifth highest grossing Korean film of all time.

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The movie is actually separated in two parts, with the first one being more laid back, entailing many comic scenes and presenting the dynamics between the members of the group. The second one entails more action and drama, as the plot twists, the betrayals and the moles emerge to give the story and the characters much depth while a game of cat-mouse is initiated.

The action scenes are impressive, with the one inside and outside of the block of flats definitely standing out, with its distinct Tsui Hark style.

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As for the cast, all of them perform wonderfully and the chemistry between them is great, which is quite a big achievement considering the number of protagonists. Kim Hye-soo as Pepsee and Kim Hae-sook as Chewinggum stand out from the female leads, while the film takes as much advantage as it can from the looks of Gianna Jun, who plays Yenicall in sultry fashion. Oh Dal-su as Andrew is great as always as a comic relief character, Simon Yam steals the show at times as Chen, in another tragic role for him, while the tension between Kim Yun-seok as Macao Park and Lee Jung-jae as Popie is one of the films biggest assets.

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Everything one could demand from mainstream cinema is here, in a definite mainstream masterpiece of the contemporary S. Korean cinema.

The film is currently streaming on DramaFever