Korean Movie Review – The Thieves (도둑들)

With a whole host of Korean superstars on show, Choi Dong-hoon’s “The Thieves” was only released last July, but has gone on to become the highest-grossing Korean film ever, overtaking Bong Joon-ho’s “The Host” (2006) in the process. One year later, it’s still a solid example of an action film with enough substance to back up its adrenaline.

After pulling off a high-end art heist, Popie and his team decide to lay low in Hong Kong until the dust settles. There, Popie gets involved with a Chinese crew run by Korean master thief Macao Park. Despite Park’s awkward history with some of Popie’s crew, they make plans to steal the Tear of the Sun diamond, owned by notorious gangster Wei Fong, which could net them as much as $20 million.

The heist doesn’t quite go according to plan, and both crews must work out who double-crossed whom as they all try to obtain the prize.

Considering how many quality movies come out of Korea, a film being called the the most successful in its history is going to be burdened by seriously high expectations. Fortunately for all of us, “The Thieves” lives up to and surpasses all of the hype. The plot keeps you guessing and you’re constantly waiting for the next twist and turn. The production values are slick, and it also features some extremely impressive stunts. It was also nice to see a big-budget film set in Seoul that didn’t involve people getting stabbed or smashed in the head with a hammer.

The film does take itself seriously, but still manages to be funny, with Jeon Ji-hyeon and the versatile Oh Dal-soo acting as the film’s comic relief.

An obvious comparison can be made between “The Thieves” and Steven Soderbergh’s recent “Ocean” trilogy. But while the Korean heist flick is easily better than “Ocean’s Twelve” (2004) and “Thirteen” (2007), I’d argue that it also tops “Ocean’s Eleven,” the 2001 remake of the Rat Pack original. “The Thieves” is not only one of the best Korean films I’ve seen this year, but one of the best, full stop.

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Categories: Reviews

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