“The Thieves” (“Doduk Deul” in Korean) is like bibimbap; a heavenly dish of mixed various vegetables and rice enjoyed by Koreans from all walks of life. And just like bibimbap, this film has a diverse assortment of ingredients in its ensemble cast that will tantalize most palates.
Even before its release, way back during pre-production, the film was garnering a lot of attention due to its star-studded cast of experienced actors, each known for their own distinctive acting styles. In this film we see Kim Hye Soo, Jeon Ji Hyun, Lee Jung Jae, Kim Yoon Seok, and Kim Soo Hyeon come together for a spectacle of a movie that was shot in Macau, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Busan.
In this heist tale the object of desire is the “Tear of the Sun,” a US$20 million diamond which is presumably hidden on the top floor of a Macau casino. Scheming mastermind Macao Park (Kim Yoon Seok, “The Chaser,” 2008) recruits 10 thieves — six from Korea and four from China — to steal the coveted diamond. By casting Chinese movie stars Simon Yam (“Midnight Beating,” 2010) and Angelica Lee (“Sleepwalker,” 2011), it seems that director Choi Dong Hun (“Jeon Woo Chi,” 2009) is trying to lure Chinese audiences to the Korean movie market.
Macao Park, a character known for winning an eye-popping sum in a single night at a Macao casino, suggests to Popeye (Lee Jung Jae, “The Housemaid,” 2010) that they steal the “Tear of the Sun” together as a team. However, Popeye and Macao’s relationship has been strained ever since they fought years ago over Paepsi (Kim Hye Soo, “Modern Boy,” 2008), a beautiful safe cracker. Popeye then recruits the rest of the team; Anycall (Jeon Ji Hyun, “Blood: The Last Vampire,” 2009), an expert rope climber; Chewing gum (Kim Hae Sook), a conman; Jampano (Kim Soo Hyun, from the TV show “The moon that embraces the Sun”, 2012), a rookie thief; and Paepsi. However, thieves will be thieves, and the scheme doesn’t go as planed with each character trying to steal the diamond for himself.
The story might bring to mind the remake “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001), directed by Steven Soderbergh starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and every other famed face of that year. “The Thieves,” like “Ocean’s Eleven,” is a sprawling heist flick set in a casino with a star ensemble cast attempting to steal a diamond. However, where the two diverge is, as director Choi has said to criticism of him copying the Western film, each of his characters have their own hidden scheme, emblematic of the characters thieving strengths, while “Ocean’s” relies upon the unity of its members.
Rather, “The Thieves” tends to follow in the vein of Choi’s previous works “The War of Flower” (2008) and “Resurrection of a Crime” (2004), in that the audience needs to piece clues together to see the film’s bigger picture, like a jigsaw puzzle. Each thief has their own life philosophy and paints drastically different meanings on the same act. This keeps the audience constantly guessing through 10 different plot lines about which thief will actually have the diamond in hand by the end of the film, preventing any chance of the audience being bored.
“The Thieves” attracted around 3.3 million people in the first six days from its release on July 25 and it is expected to break Korean film records. Currently, “The Thieves” accounts for 55.3 percent of occupied theatre seats surpassing ”The Dark Knight Rises” and “Ice Age: Continental Drift.”
Due to strong language and violence, “The Thieves” is rated 15 and over. Some of the dialogue and humor may be difficult to understand for non-native Koreans.
Opened on July 25 nationwide. Directed by Choi Dong Hun; written by Lee Gi Cheol, Choi Dong Hun; released by Showbox. Running time: 2 hours, 18 minutes.
Staring: Kim Yoon Seok (Macao Park), Kim Hye Soo (Paepsi), Jeon Ji Hyun (Anycall), Lee Jung Jae (Popeye), Kim Hae Sook (Chewing gum), Oh Dal Soo (Andrew), Kim Soo Hyun (Jampano), Simon Yam (Chen), Angelica Lee (Julie), and Derek Tsang (Johnny)
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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