Think heist. Casinos. All-star cast. Ocean’s Eleven. Yes, The Thieves might not be a profoundly brainy picture but it is far from mindless and heck, it’s incredibly entertaining. A few seconds into the movie the audience was already laughing and I knew I was in for a fun ride.
Like all heist movies, we have the prize: a $20 million diamond dubbed the “Tear of the Sun”. We are introduced to the main team, gathered by Popeye, which consists of Anycall, Chewing Gum and Jampano. Popeye also recruits his old partner in crime, safecracker Pepsi, who is out from prison on parole. They are joining the mastermind, Macau Park, to steal the diamond in Macau. Apparently Popeye, Pepsi and Macau used to work on a job together and things went wrong, resulting in Pepsi getting incarcerated and Macau Park disappearing with the prize. Apart from the mastermind Macau Park himself, they are also joined by three veteran thieves from Hong Kong, Chen, Johnny, and Andrew–who is apparently Korean. The last member from Hong Kong to join the team is another safecracker, Julie.
As we go along the ride we discover that the characters have their own hidden agendas. They’re all thieves, after all. While there are no actual big, unexpected twists, Choi Dong Hoon (who directed and also co-wrote the feature with Lee Gi Cheol) actually manages to put a few surprises that keep you entertained throughout the 135-minute movie. But the main selling point? Definitely the cast. You can’t deny the power of these big names and the colorful characters that they got to portray. Kim Yoon Seok has, as always, an effortless presence on screen. He has been in Choi’s previous three movies and you don’t have to wonder why a filmmaker wants to work this guy again and again. He might not be blessed with movie-star good looks, but this man doesn’t need any. His charm is undeniable. What’s good about the movie, though, is that the other characters are also given time to shine as well. Well, maybe not all, but most of them have enough story and lines to make you remember them.
After five years of absence (unless you count Blood: The Last Vampire, then it’s three years), Jeon Ji Hyeon makes her comeback and it’s not a disappointment. The sassy girl reminds us why we love her–she’s beautiful, sexy and funny. So perfect it is almost frustrating to see her. And after this big success, it seems like there’s no way but up for the 31 year-old, we’ll be seeing her again in the highly anticipated, big budget international spy drama, In Berlin, alongside Ryoo Seung Beom and Ha Jeong Woo.
However, there’s one big name who doesn’t have much screen time–Kim Soo Hyun. Granted, he has only become a household name since a few months ago, and was probably not that huge a star when the script was being penned, but he’s unquestionably capable of being more than an eyecandy. This guy is too good to be stuck doing teenage TV series and I hope he’ll do more movies in the future. With bigger roles and more screen time than Jampano, of course.
What I love about Korean films is that they are so good at making an ‘all-round’ picture. Their hit movies are hits for a reason. The Thieves is not just a movie full of beautiful people doing high-class heist stunts, it happens to be funny, it has a decent storyline, a vibrant group of characters, solid acting, and great action sequences. The last third of the movie features smartly choreographed fighting scenes with the characters hanging on ropes and shooting whilst moving between buildings, and also some crafty tricks, in which the main characters cheat one another.
The movie first premiered back in July 25th, and garnered 436,628 moviegoers on the first day. On the second day, it sold 410,192 tickets (beating The Dark Knight Rises at 167,313) and by the third day, it surpassed the one million mark at 1,355,342. At the time of this writing, the movie has got a total of 12,837,050 admissions, surpassing The King and the Clown (2005, 12 million, a movie very dear to my heart) thus placing itself as the second most-watched local movie in the country. It is very much on its way to topple the number one movie, The Host (2006, 13.01 million), and probably even the current all-time Korean box-office champ, Avatar (2009, 13.35 million). The movie is also being scheduled to screen on the 13th, 14th and 16th at the Toronto International Film Festival.
So, why not join the fun?
The Thieves was screened at the 2013 Korean Film Festival.