Once a Thief

1991 [CN]

Action / Comedy / Crime / Thriller

Plot summary

Uploaded by: FREEMAN


Top cast

Yun-Fat Chow Photo
Yun-Fat Chow as Red Bean Puddin - Joe
John Woo Photo
John Woo as Stanley Wu
Kenneth Tsang Photo
Kenneth Tsang as Chow - Father
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
992.08 MB
Chinese 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 48 min
P/S 0 / 2
1.99 GB
Chinese 5.1
23.976 fps
1 hr 48 min
P/S 4 / 10

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by lasttimeisaw7 / 10

the entire experience is a mixed-bag of thrill, embarrassment and frivolousness, often in a cyclical fashion

The penultimate HK picture of action-tastemaker John Woo before he was signed up to conquer Hollywood-land in 1993, ONCE A THIEF reunites Chow and Cheung from Woo's most esteemed A BETTER TOMORROW franchise, teams up with Cherie Chung (who would soon get married and retire entirely from the screen) in this ultra-breezy ménage-à-trois caper, which, at the start, sets its adventurous background in an exotic France, then after the midstream, routinely retreats back to Woo's turf to anticipate its bullets-flying homestretch.

The film is super fun to watch, on account of the charming facade of those three Hong Kong screen icons. Joe (Chow),Jim (Cheung) and Cherie (Chung) are three orphans raised and trained by a sinister crime boss Chow (Tsang) as professional thieves, meanwhile they also befriend with another father figure, the kind-hearted cop Chu (Chu). Joe and Cherie become an item when they grow up, and Jim holds back his affection to Cherie. In France, they successfully steal a Modigliani's painting, but their next mission goes amiss, resulting in a heavily-armed skirmish and Joe is presumably dead. Jim and Cherie return to Hong Kong in despondence, and their romance blossoms, then a wheelchair-bound Joe shows up unexpectedly and reticently gives them his blessing. The trio reconcile like old-times, only now Joe is the third wheel in their good rapport. More urgently, they have to settle the old scores with Chow, and Woo leaves a very wayward twist to temper the picture's trigger-happy excess, as if he tellingly tips off audience that don't take the story seriously, it is a jolly ride, just enjoy the experience.

The emotion tangle of the triangular relationship could have been developed into a more complex and heart-tugging structure since they are all able players, although a cordially comic gaiety seeps thoroughly into the narrative thanks to Chow's chameleon-like swagger (including his wheelchair dance routine) and Cheung's wet-behind-the-ears ardor, which leaves Chung most of the time like a pretty foil. Also the good dad/bad father trope doesn't really register under such black-or-white and cartoonish impetuosity.

The action set pieces are flashy at their best, churning-out at their worst. They may look dashing at first glance, but soon plummet into passable effects borne out of a shambolic manufacture, a sign of the times of HK film production. One particularly WTF scene materializes when Jim sawing a wooden plank under the bottom of a barreling lorry, which is transporting precious artworks of Musée du Louvre, on which planet, the lorry would have a wooden bottom? Which instantly snatches audience out of the credentials of the trio's teamwork. Moreover Violet Lam's synthetic score doesn't help, it is sheer obtrusively objectionable to one's ears.

ONCE A THIEF is a jaunty divergence from John Woo's more polished, bullet-ridden and heroic fraternity bravura, but shackled by the incoherent attribute between a heads-in-the-clouds lark and a dead-serious survival strategy at gunpoint, the entire experience is a mixed-bag of thrill, embarrassment and frivolousness, often in a cyclical fashion, before one's investment runs dry.

Reviewed by Leofwine_draca5 / 10

Typically strong action from Woo, but the comedy's weak

Having made the extremely dark and violent films THE KILLER and BULLET IN THE HEAD one after the other, John Woo was in need of a break. He'd had enough of excess violence and bloodshed and wanted to make a more light-hearted flick, which is where ONCE A THIEF comes in. Eschewing the exploration of morality in his earlier films, he sets out with this caper movie which sees Chow Yun-Fat on winning form as an art thief persuaded to take one last job.

What follows is a real mix of a movie. For starters, I love John Woo action and it's in short supply here, although he still has time to throw in two or three massive shoot-outs on the kind of scale you know and love. It's quite funny. There will be romance, quirky humour, and then suddenly a dozen automatic weapon-wielding thugs show up and start shooting the heck out of the scenery. There's time for stunts too, with cars rolling down stone steps during one frenetic chase scene and a truly wild climax which is up there with his best as director. Elsewhere the film seems weak. Woo is so intent on referencing his favourite European directors he forgets to put any substance with the style. Also, the humour is completely ridiculous too, absolutely stupid in places, and not really something Western audiences will enjoy. Sometimes Yun-Fat is cute and funny and at other times he acts like a real idiot.

It's certainly not a bad film. The heist sequences are handled well and the later complexities of the plot are worth watching, although a long time in coming. Leslie Cheung gives a great performance as Yun-Fat's buddy although Cherie Chung is relegated to 'irritating sidekick'. There are a few twists and turns which are fun to watch and, as mentioned, a great action climax. Highlights include a magician whose tricks are deadly and an excellent exploding microwave moment. Still, this isn't a film I'd want to see again – unlike John Woo's next movie, his outstanding HARD BOILED.

Reviewed by kosmasp7 / 10

The real Thief

Once a thief how it was originally conceived by John Woo. And although it was nice that they let him remake(remade) his own work (but sadly for a TV audience as an appetizer for a TV show),this still is the real deal!

Chow Yun Fat is captivating as ever, but you also have the great Leslie Cheung, who sadly took his own life a few years ago. But roles like this one make him unforgettable. Overall the movie is a little bit lighter than your average John Woo film, although that doesn't mean you won't recognize it as one! Normally this shouldn't be the first John Woo film you watch, but even if so, it doesn't matter, because you will enjoy it either way! :o) (at least that's what a Woo fan like me is saying/thinking!)

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