'The Thieves', directed by Dong-hoon Choi, is Asian cinema's answer to 'Ocean's 11'. A band of career criminals comes together, all of them with some sort of sordid history following them, to rip-off a casino for a huge score.
The movie begins with an elaborately planned heist already in progress. Yenicall (Gianna Jun), is a young, attractive woman and she's come to visit her boyfriend. Only this visit she's bringing her mother. The woman pretending to be her mother is named Chewing Gum (Hae-suk Kim). The two of them have been working this mark for a while and it's all going to pay off now. The opening sequence involves skillful planning, inventive wire work, and a good bit of humor. It's a good introduction to the kind of movie 'The Thieves' is.
Yenicall and Chewing Gum are only parts of a larger criminal team. After their heist they come into contact with some other thieves who are planning the big casino job. It involves a priceless diamond kept secure in an uncrackable safe. Yeah, you know the routine.
Once more team members are thrown into the mix the movie becomes exponentially harder to follow. Backstories upon backstories are interspersed throughout the film, giving us insight into the complicated relationships of the characters. This isn't just a team of criminals getting together to pull off a huge job. These people know each other, and some of them despise one another. But the pull of the heist is strong enough to get them together.
Career criminal Macau Park (Kim Yeon-seok) is the brains behind the plan. He is the one that forms the team. The team consists of Koreans and Chinese, which offers an interesting dichotomy to the movie. Some of the most intriguing spots of dialogue come when characters discuss their prejudices for one another depending on one's nationality. Park is reserved, but you can tell that he has everything thought out. He also comes across as one of those guys who may be keeping most of the important information to himself.
Of course an overly elaborate plan is constructed with each member of the team playing a certain role. What I found fascinating was that the heist takes place relatively fast. The movie still has quite a ways to go after the big job has reached a conclusion. The movie ends up being an action-packed mix of 'Ocean's 11' and 'The Italian Job.'
The second half of the movie is extremely exciting and delivers on the promise of well-choreographed action scenes. There is a sequence where Park eludes, and then fights two would-be assassins all while tied to a flimsy cord. They sprint across the side of the building effortlessly. It's a scene that rivals any blockbuster Hollywood action scene.
I would be lying if I didn't mention that the constant flashbacks were terribly hard to follow. The team is so large that it's hard to try to keep everyone straight. Not to mention the spider web of interactions they have had with one another over the years. Trying to keep it all straight almost requires the viewer to take notes, rewind, and take more notes.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Thieves' is a Well Go USA release. It comes on a 50GB Blu-ray Disc, is packaged in a standard keepcase, and has a slipcover. The back of the cover indicates Region A coding.
Even though the movie was shot digitally, it features a lush and filmic image. The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer of 'The Thieves' has style, color and clarity. All of which shine under the high-def microscope.
Detail in close-ups is lifelike. Facial features from hair to flawless female skin, give the presentation a richly detailed look. Mid-range shots, while a little softer, provide ample definition. Building facades feature well-rendered texture. Leaves and trees are vibrant with concise edges.
Shadows are nicely delineated. Blacks are deep and never appear overly flat. Crushing is never an issue here. Colors and skin tones are beautifully natural. Contrast is spot-on. This is a great looking transfer from top to bottom.
The Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix (with English subtitles) provides an enthusiastic listening experience. Even though this is an action-heist movie, most of the story revolves around the lengthy bouts of dialogue. Dialogue is delivered in Korean, although there is some Japanese, Cantonese, and Mandarin thrown in there for good measure. However, the clarity isn't affected by what language they're speaking. Every bit of spoken word comes out of the front and center channels clearly audible.
The action scenes are just as impressive, but for a different reason. The second half of the movie features a wide array of fully automatic gunfire which fills the soundfield. The rear channels pick up the rapid rat-a-tat-tat of the machine guns as they blast away through wood, metal, and brick. Bullets whiz by every which way as the mix provides a deeply engrossing experience. No complaints here.
Despite its overly complicated plot, 'The Thieves' still manages to entertain with a wide array of eye-popping stunts and beautiful cinematography. I found it hard to keep everyone's stories straight and remember who hated who, but I did find the movie entertaining as a heist movie. At 138 minutes, it's a little bloated, but the exciting second half makes up for its shortcomings. With very solid video and audio 'The Thieves' is recommended.