Movie Review: Once a Thief (1991)

“They only stop to reload.”

1 Stars
Once a Thief (1991)

Once a Thief (1991)


Director: John Woo

Cast: Leslie Cheung, Yun-Fat Chow, Cherie Chung

Synopsis: Three art thieves find their friendship is strained when a love triangle develops between them.


Chow Yun Fat (Let the Bullets Fly) is one of a trio of art thieves who grew up together on the city streets. Bought up by a harsh criminal mentor, they find kindness from the local bobby.   As adults they pull off seemingly impossible heists, but find themselves double-crossed by their mentor and determine to get revenge.

Once a Thief is a typical Hong Kong action-comedy – although perhaps not the kind of typical John Woo film we’re used to in the West. When it focuses exclusively on action set-pieces it’s pretty spectacular; when combining action with comedy it’s fitfully successful, but when trying to be funny in its own right it’s a complete stinker.   The storyline would never get green-lighted in the States, but it’s entertaining enough. It might have been even more enjoyable had anyone bothered to write half-way decent subtitles, but as usual we get the kind of stuff a twelve-year-old would write.

(Reviewed 17th November 2011)





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