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In order to let things cool down from their latest heist, Popeye and his group of thieves go to Macao on a job. But the mastermind behind this job is none other than Popeye’s old partner Macao Park, who escaped with 68kg of gold several years ago on their last job together. But his plan takes an unexpected turn when Popeye brings Pepsi, an old flame of Park's, to settle the old score. Their target is a $20 million diamond known as ‘Tear of the Sun’, kept safely away in a casino to be sold by a notorious Chinese fence. While working together to steal this fabled diamond, they all have their own agenda to keep the diamond for themselves. But who will succeed and live to see another day?
For more about The Thieves and the The Thieves Blu-ray release, see the The Thieves Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on January 28, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Choi Dong-hun
Writer: Choi Dong-hun
Starring: Lee Jung-Jae, Kim Yoon-seok, Kim Hye-su, Oh Dal-su, Simon Yam, Kim Hae-suk
» See full cast & crew
The Thieves Blu-ray Review
Dishonor among thieves.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, January 28, 2013
The Thieves starts out with a fleet and funny opening sequence that is part John Woo, part Howard Hawks— and if that doesn't pique your interest, nothing probably will. We meet an elegant young woman who is dressed fashionably in what might be termed Audrey Hepburn chic, and her dowdy, hard drinking mother, who is clad in a baseball cap and ill fitting blouse and pants. The two women enter the palatial office of a young man at which point the mother accuses the man of having "deflowered" her daughter. Evidently the young woman has brought Mom to meet her beau, and Mom seems resigned to the fact that her daughter and this man may be a "thing", wondering now only about how much money the man might have. The mother quickly diverts the small talk to the man's art collection, at which point the viewer is suddenly aware there's something else going on here other than a kind of "not quite family yet" dysfunction. Mom asks the man to see some of his private holdings, at which point we get a fast and furious, Mission: Impossible left turn in the plot where it becomes apparent that the two women are in fact part of a rather well orchestrated conspiracy to liberate a priceless item from the man's collection. It's fast, it's funny and it's impeccably well staged in an over the top way that has perilous crane shots cartwheeling into each other, the young woman becoming a distaff Tom Cruise and doing all sorts of insane building leaping (and climbing) via an attached cable, and it is frankly one of the most exciting opening gambits (a deliberate word choice, considering the long ago film about thieves plotting to take a priceless item) in South Korean film history. If the rest of the film settles into a more predictable caper rut after that opening, The Thieves still offers plenty of plot twists and turns along the way that help to supplant actual action sequences to sustain the film's forward momentum.
The young woman turns out to be a skilled acrobat named Yenicall (Gianna Jun) while the older woman is named Chewing Gum (Hae-suk Kim), a reference to one of the "tools of her trade". They are part of a gang that also includes the mendacious Popie (Jung-Jae Lee) as well as young stud Jampano (Kim Soo-hyun). (It should be noted that the subtitles include character name spellings such as "Yenicall" and "Popie" while other sources Americanize these to Any Call and Popeye.) Though the gang manages to get away with the crime depicted in the breezy opening sequence, they're soon visited by the police, which only encourages them to get the heck out of Dodge for a while until things cool down. In the meantime, they've been approached to join a Chinese gang to pull of an even more spectacular heist of a priceless diamond which is, in best caper film tradition, kept safe in a supposedly impenetrable safe within an equally impenetrable apartment.
Things start to get dangerously complex once The Thieves kicks off on this second caper, and it frankly can be difficult keeping track of the large cast of characters as well as what exactly their plot is. The three Chinese are soon accompanied by a safecracker named Julie (Angelica Lee), while the Koreans also enlist the aid of a similarly skilled woman named Pepsee (Kim Hye-soo) (some sources Americanize this to Pepsi). The mastermind behind the plot is a legendary thief named Macau Park (Kim Yeon-seok), who begins to stage an elaborate plan (is there any other kind in a caper film?) that involves Chewing Gum and Chen (Simon Yam) posing as Japanese gamblers at a casino that the diamond's keeper, Madame Tiffany (Yeh Soo-jung) frequents. Tiffany is the mistress of the extremely nefarious criminal Wei Hong (Ki Gook-seo), a man who has rarely if ever been seen and who evidently has plans to sell the diamond for untold tens of millions of dollars. While Chen and Chewing Gum keep Tiffany involved in an escalating poker game, the other thieves are busy attempting to gain entrance to Tiffany's fortress like apartment and not one, but two, safes.
This is only the barest of outlines of the basic plot machinations of the main heist in The Thieves, but it can only hint at the manifold twists and turns this inventive film takes. We find out various revelations about the interrelationships between several of these characters via quick (sometimes just a few seconds) flashbacks, and one character turns out to be an undercover cop trying to track down Macau Park and Wei Hong. There are three sets of star-crossed lovers, either longstanding or new romances forged out of the stress of this extremely complicated plan. And perhaps most surprisingly, the actual heist turns out to be only at about the mid-point of the film, with a rippling series of betrayals and shifting alliances filling out the remainder of the running time.
The Thieves has been one of the biggest recent hits in the burgeoning South Korea film industry, and it's really not hard to see why. The film has an unabashedly Western feel to it, with a highly convoluted plot, well choreographed action including some fantastic wire work and careening camera moves, and an underlying cheeky sense of humor that may be more redolent of such "Mission: Impossible-lite" fare as the recently canceled television series Leverage. The characters are all very well drawn and the acting, while taking second place to the plot, is uniformly excellent. My hunch is The Thieves is going to be "coming to a theater near you" in a Westernized version sooner rather than later. In the meantime, though, you can revel in one of the most enjoyable Korean films to come down the pike in a long, long while.
The Thieves Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Thieves is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. This Red Epic shot feature boasts the generally sleek clarity of this technology, but overall the film is not quite as sharp as might be expected. While close-ups reveal abundant fine detail, midrange and wide shots are slightly softer than similarly shot features. The location footage adds to the glamour of the proceedings and several of the establishing shots boast very good sharpness. Colors are generally accurate looking, though large swaths of the film appear to have been graded in post toward the yellow side of the spectrum. Some very minor, almost negligible, aliasing in on display with regard to some of the heavily patterned cityscapes that crop up through the film.
The Thieves Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Thieves boasts a wonderfully immersive lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix (mostly) in Korean (a recurring joke in the film has various characters speaking Mandarin, Cantonese or Japanese and then being surprised when someone else understands what they're saying). Fidelity here is very strong, with dialogue presented very cleanly and clearly and the film's ubiquitous ambient environmental effects as well as Foley work also sounding great. The film is awash in great surround activity, including nice discrete channelization and excellent panning effects. The urban setting of much of the film helps immeasurably in this regard. Despite some of the "busy" sounding mix, everything is extremely well prioritized.
The Thieves Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Thieves Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Thieves is frankly a little hard to follow at times, especially when director Dong-Hoon Choi cuts away from the main action to give us little sketches of various characters' back stories and interrelationships, but if you just go with the flow and let the film's admittedly labyrinthine plot spill out on its own terms, this is a hugely enjoyable caper film. The action set pieces are wonderfully staged and there's even some actual character development along the way, something rather unusual for a genre film such as this. Though the supplementary material here is pretty slim, the video and audio quality is great, and The Thieves comes Highly recommended.
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The Thieves Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: The Thieves - February 5, 2013
Blu-ray.com and Well Go USA are offering three members a chance to win a copy of The Thieves. This fast paced caper film has become one of the top grossing films in Korean history. The Blu-ray streets on February 12.
• Korean Blockbuster The Thieves Gets U.S. Release Date - December 13, 2012
Independent distributors Well Go USA have officially announced that they will release on Blu-ray the South Korean blockbuster The Thieves (2012). The film has grossed over $82M in South Korea. Currently, it is the most successful film in the country's box office ...
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