Philadelphia Film Festival 2012: ‘The Thieves’ is a fast-paced heist film

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The Thieves

Directed by Dong-Hoon Choi

South Korea, 2012

Philadelphia Film Festival

The second-highest grossing film in South Korean film history, Dong-Hoon Choi’s The Thieves is a fast-paced heist film in the recent American ensemble tradition of Ocean’s 11.

A group of Korean thieves led by Popeye (Jung-Jae Lee) are brought alongside a group of Chinese thieves with Chen (Simon Yam) at their helm to steal the famous “Tear of the Sun” diamond. Macau Park (Yun-seok Kim) is the mastermind behind it all, but he, Popeye, and Pepsi (Hye-su Kim), recently released from prison, have a history that will be sorted out.

The Thieves has a huge cast and nearly each individual crook receives his or her own share of screentime. Yenicall (Gianna Jun), Chewingum (Hae-suk Kim), and Zampano (Soo Hyun Kim) round out Popeye’s gang, playing the beautiful acrobat, the seasoned impersonator, and the handy technician respectively. On Chen’s side of things are Andrew (Dal-su Oh), the bumbling comic relief and Julie (Angelica Lee), the safecracker with her own agenda.

Choi and co-screenwriter Lee Gi-Cheol raise the stakes enough to represent real danger and prove unafraid to implement real twists. The second half of The Thieves, essentially an extended robbery and aftermath sequence, proves ambitious and treacherous enough to make the casino-robbery setup, itself old hat in the heist genre, feel fairly fresh.

Pulling as much from a Mission Impossible or James Bond film, the actually robbery in The Thieves isn’t particularly adept, but the plentiful characters allow Choi for enough misdirection to make the plan seem more intricate than it is.

Obvious exposition aside (particularly an annoying clandestinely recorded conversation between Macau Park and one of his co-conspirators), The Thieves provides enough hidden back-story, inter-group relationships, and comedic one-liners to entertain, even when it drags at the march to the conclusion.

– Neal Dhand

The Philadelphia Film Festival celebrates 21 years and runs from October 18 to October 28, 2012. For a complete schedule of films, screening times, and ticket information, please see the Philadelphia Film Society’s official site.

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