Chungmuro/Film Reviews
Movie Review: The Thieves
by | June 8, 2013 | 110 Comments

Some directors have made careers on the backs of making certain kinds of movies and Choi Dong-hoon is one such director. In many ways, his filmography kind of resembles that of English director Guy Ritchie as both started with crime caper films and largely built their careers on similar films with a deviation or two. Choi’s first feature film, The Big Swindle, also turned out to be a sizable hit, breaking over two million admissions in its native Korea, which made it one of the most successful films of 2004, but it also had the distinction of being the first Korean heist film of notable success.

Choi was so successful with The Big Swindle that he was quickly able to make and release his next film, Tazza: The High Rollers. If The Big Swindle is to be considered a success, Tazza was a runaway hit in 2006, crushing all of its competition that year, including high profile Hollywood blockbusters like Mission Impossible III, save the beast from the Han River, The Host, which went on to become one of the most successful Korean films of all time.

The director took a change of pace for his next film and made the fantasy action film Woochi and made yet another smash hit, again breaking six million admissions. Yet, Woochi, for all of its entertaining antics, seemed to fall just a little short of Choi’s twists-and-turns character oriented strengths that he displayed with Tazza. So three years later, in 2012, Choi returned with The Thieves.

The Thieves is the most successful Korean film of all time. Not only did it knock aside the record previously held by The Host, but it even outraced its fellow record-maker The Masquerade with over half a million more admissions, coming in at a staggering thirteen million admissions. To put it in perspective, that’s over five million admissions more than its closest Hollywood competitor that year, The Avengers. In fact, there are very few films even from Hollywood that have done better in Korea. James Cameron’s Avatar being the only film I could find with higher numbers.

And The Thieves does this by returning to what Choi does best: the heist film. The Thieves raises the stakes on Choi’s history of heist films by taking The Thieves international, set in Korea, Hong Kong, and Macau and adding to his all-star Korean cast a number of notable Hong Kong (and Malaysian Chinese) stars. The Thieves is highly entertaining thanks to its mix of character-based comedy, complex plot, excellent performances, especially from the women in the cast, and a dose of adrenaline via action sequences.

The object that the titular thieves want? The Tear of the Sun diamond, estimated to be worth about $20 million USD. The players? First, there’s Macao Park (Kim Yun-seok), the mastermind of the operation. He calls in his former accomplice Popeye (Lee Jung-jae), who then calls in safecracker Pepsi (Kim Hye-soo), the latter having completed a term in prison. The wrinkle is that the three of them had previously worked together on a separate heist when things went sour and grudges continue to be held.

Filling out the rest of the Korean crew are Yenicall (Jeon Ji-hyun / Gianna Jun) and Zampano (Kim Soo-hyun), a wire-walker (specialist in getting into buildings from outside) and her smitten rope man, and Chewing Gum (Kim Hae-sook), a con artist. Macao also calls on Chen (Simon Yam), Johnny (Derek Tsang) and Andrew (Oh Dal-soo), the latter being the one Korean member of the Chinese crew, and they find Julie (Angelica Lee) for their second safecracker.

Typical for heist films, there are alliances, secrets, and potential backstabbing a-plenty among this band of talented thieves and the risk is high, since they are essentially stealing the diamond from notorious Chinese fence, Wei Hong (Ki Gook-seo), only to sell it back to him.

Although the film follows the standard heist film progression of recruitment, plot, and execution, followed by a ton of backstabbing and plot twists, The Thieves wins not by subverting the formula, but by executing everything so well. The first strong element is the attention to character detail. Admittedly, the women in the film actually are all better fleshed out than the men and the tension and camaraderie in their relations with each other help drive a large portion of the story. Kim Hye-soo, who previously worked with Choi Dong-hoon on Tazza, manages to capture Pepsi’s bitterness towards Macao Park quite well and the trio with Popeye, played with almost adolescent angst by Lee, drive most of the drama of the film.

On the other side, we also have a strong dose of comedy from Gianna Jun and Kim Soo-hyun, the former handling her sometimes goofy trickster Yenicall well, recalling all the charm that made her a star over a decade ago, and Kim Soo-hyun, although playing a much more minor role, mixes well with Gianna. Simon Yam and Kim Hae-sook get a side plot themselves as they have to pretend to be a Japanese couple and while their Japanese is abysmal, their Chen and Chewing Gum manage to connect in a hilarious, but somewhat affecting way as well.

The Thieves does feel a bit long, especially in the last act when Macao Park gets his own story told. Unfortunately, Macao Park, though played with infinite cool by Kim Yun-seok, doesn’t get his subplot woven very well into the film, so the last reel feels like a fifteen minute detour into a wholly different action-thriller film, like the kind that Simon Yam has often starred in and starts to drag. And although Choi and his co-writer, Lee Ki-cheol do pretty deftly handle weaving together the stories of many of the rest of the thieves, it often feels like there’s simply too many characters to give them all their due.

While that last act is full of rope-swinging, gun-firing, bullet-dodging action, it’s actually everything before the action that is the most enjoyable part of The Thieves. It’s when we learn about the alliances within the group, the secrets that some characters harbor and how the different groups have their own agendas that the tension is set. Then seeing how all this internal plotting mucks up the actual heist itself, despite the careful planning, as backs are stabbed and crosses are doubled and everyone runs from the law which trying to get their hands on the diamond. All with a rousing dose of comedy and style.

Choi Dong-hoon directs his film in a classical Hollywood style and, unlike his aforementioned counterpart, Guy Ritchie, doesn’t rely on much fancy filmmaking tricks, rather letting the action and actors in front of the camera drive the film. When combined with the quality work from the production team, you get a film that’s modern, slick without being dizzying, and more interested in telling the story effectively than in style, in a clean and attractive presentation.

Not all of the pieces of story work perfectly in The Thieves and the film gets stretched a bit thin trying to cover so many characters in a limited amount of time, resulting in some shallow characters and underdeveloped stories, in addition to the lengthy running time. However, held together by a largely charismatic cast, the story’s many twists and turns largely deliver and the film never feels long until the last action-heavy sequence.

The Thieves won’t go down in history as a terribly influential or groundbreaking heist film on its storytelling or directing merits. It doesn’t have the uniqueness of vision of a Jean-Pierre Melville, a Steven Soderbergh, or even a Guy Ritchie, nor is it infused with a particularly Korean flavor as Choi’s previous hwatu-based Tazza, but what Choi does accomplish here is polishing what he’s already proven good at, the heist film, to a glistening gem of entertainment, raising the stakes at every level.

And it has clearly worked, with thirteen million viewers and counting, leaving Choi a name for South Korean film history books. Even if The Thieves doesn’t aspire to the halls of cinematic greatness, if you’re the kind of moviegoer that enjoys a good heist film, The Thieves is highly likely to meet and possibly even exceed your expectations with its highly polished, entertaining ride. 8/10.


110 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. k-soup

    too busy to finish this movie.. only watching it because of Kim Soo-hyun

    • 1.1 Miss D

      Hahaha Kim Soo-hyun is definitely the reason why I first looked up the movie. I wish there had been more of him in the film πŸ™ But overall I really enjoyed it even if I thought Ocean’s Eleven’s theft went much more smoothly.

    • 1.2 Brenda

      Same here, as soon as he left I lost interest. =(

  2. in times...

    I was actually highly disappointed with the film. It wasn’t thrilling and I just couldn’t connect with the main characters despite the great acting. In fact, I think Cha Tae Hyun’s The Grand Heist was a better film as it was funny and entertaining.

    • 2.1 KDaddict

      I agree w every word. Cha Tae Hyun’s Grand Heist was much more interesting.
      I watched this movie a couple months ago. I like many of the actors in it. The story/heist/movie went by quickly enough, but didn’t leave much of an impression. It’s pretty much like cotton candy.
      Wonder if it deserves such a lengthy n serious review.

    • 2.2 Ace

      I found The Grand Heist overall satisfying too. It was sort of campy but I was smiling from start to finish. The Thieves was filmed beautifully but mostly my thoughts were: “Seriously?”, “WTF”, “That’s all?” Yeah, it wasn’t all that amusing and clever. I watched it because of KSH & JJH and they were the only amusing characters there but their endings left a lot to be desired. Also, I wanted to watch a film starring LJJ that I could like but it turned out to be one of those flashy but shallow films.

  3. Honora

    At some point of the movie I understood nothing. But Kim Soo Hyun was so cute

  4. Ivoire

    Thank you for the movie review!

  5. Panda

    I’m sorry, I really couldn’t read this article. So many commas in awkward places, too many ‘and’s as well…. Yea I’m that person that cringes at simple things like this.

    • 5.1 lulli

      After reading your comment, I re-read the article to get your point…. but it seems I still can’t…. Where are there “commas in awkward places”? and “too many ‘and’s”???
      Well too bad for you you couldn’t read this article ’cause I really enjoyed it. Thanks refresh_daemon for this review! I downloaded this movie a few months ago but never got the time to actually watch it… I’ll do that this evening then! Thanks πŸ™‚

    • 5.2 news

      I appreciate the article, but I agree with Panda. There are too many long sentences with multiple commas inserted in awkward places. Grammatically, some of them might be correct, but they are wordy and come off like run-on sentences. If I read them out loud, I’m basically out of breath by the time I finish a sentence.

    • 5.3 k-soup

      refresh_daemon’s reviews are more like in a serious side.. it’s something new in dramabeans

    • 5.4 TS

      I found it very well-written and clear. Not everything has to be cut down to short sentences.

      • 5.4.1 ilikemangos

        Seems like people have been spoiled by GF/JB conversational style writing. I thought this post was fine.

    • 5.5 Ace

      Skimmed from the start. Then just stopped reading when the characters were introduced.

    • 5.6 iitu

      I didn’t really mind the long sentences but on the second reading I realised just how many subordinate clauses there were! One reason there are so many commas is the amount of relative clauses but some commas really are in gramatically wrong places and some just unnecessary. Oh no, I found my English teacher identity – -‘

      But to the point: I agree with refresh_daemon that the film was good but nothing really mindblowing. I really enjoyed the first hour but then it started to grow a bit dull, predictable at points and Macao’s story at the end felt a bit unrelevant.

      Still I enjoyed the movie and how it reminded me of the american Ocean (11, 12 & 13) movies πŸ™‚

    • 5.7 DarknessEyes

      well it’s not like refresh_daemon’s writing for an english class or whatever right? So it doesn’t real’y matter I guess. I didn’t really see anything wrong with it, but that’s just me ^^

    • 5.8 javabeans

      Tough crowd, yo.

      You’d think the review would be the thing.

      • 5.8.1 refresh_daemon

        It’s cool. I can take the criticism. I know I’m anything but laconic. πŸ˜‰

        • sm

          THANKS! refresh_daemon, ever since you guys at db started reviewing, i have come to know of great movies that i, otherwise, wouldn’t have had the time to check out,so THANKS AGAIN!
          also, i really dont get the criticism. i hope you’ll ignore it,(and continue reviewing) πŸ˜€

          • RockPaperScissors

            Me, too!

        • Hazel

          Ignore the prescriptivists.

          I had no problem reading, understanding and enjoying your review, even if I don’t think this movie is my cup of tea.

          Thank you for your hard work!

          • AnotherFan

            Me too, exactly.
            P.S. People, this is a movie review, not a high school English paper!

        • Kiara

          Appreciate the movie reviews refresh_daemon <3 :). I discovered K-drama first but I love K-movies more so thank you so much and I hope you'll continue to review more movies.

        • Lang

          Dude, your writing is fine.

          Trust me, you can’t please everyone.

          As long as your point comes across it’s fine.

          – Lang

        • JoAnne

          Wanna hang out with me and stick commas on stuff?

        • Timbone

          Thanks a lot for the detailed review. And thank you for the new word : laconic. And on the subject I think you and me both, I prefer the long detailed to concise.

      • 5.8.2 shel

        Yeah, well, they should lighten up. I just enjoy that someone does this so I can get a feel for what I might like in Korean cinema.

    • 5.9 shel

      Since when were we here to critique the reviewer? I didn’t have a problem with it.

      I enjoyed this movie for the most part, but I agree with the author that the end kind of detoured a bit and dragged on. But, the characters that were given enough time to develop were engaging and I thought that overall, it was a great movie.

    • 5.10 news

      With all due respect, some of us were merely voicing constructive criticisms regarding grammar and sentence structure. I didn’t post my previous comment because of refresh_daemon’s tone, lack of clarity or more formal style of writing. It’s clear that he’s knowledgeable about films with a strong vocabulary to boot, but objectively speaking from a grammatical perspective, some sentences are wrong, convoluted and difficult to read.

      English grammar aside, I appreciate the film review and hope he continues to write them.

  6. Jules

    I loved the first half – it was fun and zippy – but the second half dragged. And the ‘romance’ between Macao Park and Pepsi bored me.

    I wish the movie had remained focussed on the heist itself and on the ensemble cast, rather than (in the latter half) choosing to highlight two characters whose interactions and past relationship I found irritating.

    But YMMV. *shrugs*

    Thanks for the review, refresh_daemon. πŸ™‚

    • 6.1 Ivoire

      Hi Jules, what does “YMMV” mean?

      • 6.1.1 Jules

        Your Mileage May Vary.

        • Ivoire

          Just read the different explanations. Thanks Jules!

      • 6.1.2 Gian

        Your Mileage May Vary?

        • JoAnne

          different strokes for different folks, in other words.

  7. Dramafed1782

    Thank you for the review as always refresh_daemon πŸ™‚

  8. snow_white

    Thanks for the review….

  9. MsB

    Love reading reviews with diffeRent point of view. As I nev watch action/thriller movies for the romance, I thought the action sequences we’re done very well. I thought the car accident with the point of view of the victims in the car was stunning to watch. I looked at the cinematography, scenery and action with different eyes. I liked the movie. The same as I liked Ocean’s Eleven.

  10. 10 lily

    THANKS! i am so glad ,that the reviews now include lighter stuff like this,the movie review of ‘pieta’ almost made me throw up.

    • 10.1 kika

      I preferred the review of Pieta more than this, not cos that was more art house, or that this was more commercial. Just felt that refresh_daemon’s heart was more into the review on Pieta.

      I agree with Panda above on the quality of the writing…

      • 10.1.1 refresh_daemon

        I would just like to note that fellow Dramabeans writer, HeadsNo2, was responsible for the review of Pieta and I cannot take credit (or blame?) for it.

  11. 11 Selena

    Thanks for the recap, I enjoy reading your long descriptive comments more than I watch the movie. From my experience watching k-movie, I have never come across a k-movie that leaves me in awe.

    • 11.1 Barbara

      Please watch “Castaway on the Moon”. That movie personally became one of my favorites and turn me into a K-dramas addict. Your post encouraged me to write for the first time on Dramabeans after about a year of lurking and enjoying different opinions regarding our common topic.

      • 11.1.1 KDaddict

        Hi Barbara, I feel the same way abt K movies as Selena. Many of them are fairly entertaining, but none has awed me so far. I really like Masquerade, starring 2 acting powerhouses, Lee Byn Hyun and Ryu Seung Ryung, n think it deserves all the awards it’s been getting. Pls tell us sth more abt Castaway on the Moon, so that it’d be easier to find. Who star in it?

        • Barbara

          Oh, another frequent Beannie! Thank you for the tip and where can I find it? Speaking of Castaway, it’s 2009 movie, starring Jung Jae Young and Jung Ryu Won. It’s a quiet, engrossing movie about failing, loneliness and human connection. As I remember, someone already mention this movie on Dramabeans as their favorite. Actually my introduction to Korean cinema came from watching 2007 US/South Korea co-production “Never Forever”, starring Vera Farmiga, David McInnis, and Ha Jung Woo. Korean title translates to “Second Love” and it is really about love, and lust, and family.

          • KDaddict

            I saw it at a cinema n the beautiful set was really impressive on the big screen. You can watch Masquerade at Dramacrazy.
            I’ll look for Castaway on the Moon and Never Forever=2nd Love. Thx for the rec.
            I’ve a date w a friend to see Gift of Cell #7 next week. I buy the tix bcos of RSR. Hope it’ll be good.
            I love Hyun Bin n saw both his movies b4 his MS. But neither one did anything for me. Late Autumn w the Chinese actress was to me the lesser of 2 evils. The other one, what’s its name now, had half his face covered w his hair, had very little dialogue, was filmed entirely in the rain, bored me to tears. I know it’s supposed to be art-housy. I liked those sorts of films in my college n grad school days. Afraid I overdosed on them back then. πŸ˜‰

      • 11.1.2 drisris

        Thanks for suggesting “Castaway on the Moon”, I found it on youtube and loved it.

    • 11.2 alua

      What have you watched?

      • 11.2.1 Barbara

        Wow! Someone’s responded! And… I have not watched that many movies, but I managed to see a lot of K- dramas. I just love them. To me they are long movies w/beginning, middle and ending. My absolutely favorite is “Coffee Prince”. I prefer rom-com, some melo and I have low tolerance for historical dramas, suspense or horror. Can you recommend your favorites? I live in Chicago and I get my goodies on Wiki, GoodDrama etc. I’ve noticed that you are pretty active on Dramabeans…

        • alua

          I think there is amazing Korean cinema out there, so I find it sad when people just dismiss it. Of course, everyone has their own preferences and there are plenty of terrible Korean movies, but I think the Korean film industry is very worth keeping an eye on – there is plenty of excellent work.

          Some of my personal favourites include 3-Iron (that is like one of my top favourite films generally) , Late Autumn, Duelist, Take Care of My Cat and Come Rain Come Shine, but I veer towards bleak / indies / arthouse / slow & no plot kind of movies.

          See also:

          (Note: I write in long sentences and with plenty of subclauses too πŸ˜‰ )

          I still need to watch Castaway on the Moon – and lots of more of course. Romance Joe is lovely (haven’t gotten round to reviewing it yet). How to Use Guys with Secret Tips, despite its horrible title, has had good reviews from some critics I respect, so that might be a rom-com you enjoy.

          • Barbara

            Thanks person with a pretty name for link and suggestions! I can’t believe I forgot 3 Iron or Late Autumn. I’ve seen them and share your love for them, especially 3 Iron. That’s why I’m sure you’re going to love Castaway on the Moon. And just to make clear, I prefer rom-com for K-dramas, but as goes for movies, I definitely want more. Oh, the possibilities!

          • JoAnne

            I say we have a commathon.

  12. 12 RockPaperScissors

    I watched this a couple weeks ago with the hubby; we really enjoyed the action sequences. I will also agree this movie didn’t need to have any romance thrown in, but overall it was a good watch.

    Thank you for the review.

  13. 13 Andrea

    At first I though: “Oh, this is like a Korean version of Ocean’s Eleven.” except… It wasn’t.

    The Thieves was rather enjoyable for me, at least at first. I felt the second act dragged on and it bothered me. The movie also left me wondering about some of the secondary characters that we’re left with no actual resolution because they kind of dissapeared through the course of the film. My experience aside, in technical terms, the movie was really good.

    So I would give it 7/10 in terms of enjoyment and 8.5/10 in terms of the execution.

    • 13.1 gg

      Same here.. i think it was maybe kinda inspired from Ocean’s Eleven, but it turned out a little different. And I agree with the part about the last act being too long. They just kept shooting at each other, running and chasing for like forever. I was also annoyed that Kim Soo Hyun was taken out of the last bit of action (just cuz im a great fan of his :D).

      That aside, I thought it was a pretty well-executed movie like what the review said, altho it’s true that some of the male characters were pretty 2D (again, Kim Soo Hyun as a perfect example here). But I’d still recommend it to anyone interested in korean movies, just for the fun and action πŸ™‚

  14. 14 Ann

    I watched this movie several months ago, and I really enjoyed it. It made for some great escapist entertainment. Thanks for giving me the chance to revisit the experience.

  15. 15 dtp_jnr

    Tried watching this movie twice and didn’t finish it in either try…..I love the cast but something was just soo off that i just couldn’t finish it……The second half of the movie may just be the main reason why along with the predictability of the love line. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone……

  16. 16 Whatsthescenario

    Expecting nothing more than a heist movie, I quite enjoyed this film.

  17. 17 Net-chan

    I really wasn’t impressed by that movie… It came out OK but on the whole, it was a disappointing film.

    With such a great cast, I thought it could be better. Oh, and the MESS with the too many languages spoken in the film! Hahahaha. I just hate it when people don’t speak the same language but miraculously understand one another. How is this even possible. As a linguist, I can’t accept it, even in a fictional world…
    That was annoying in Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster, (it was a GREAT movie though) and I wish movie writers could stop doing that…..

    • 17.1 μ •λ‚¨

      A few members spoke Chinese and Vice Versa, It was more believable than the Chinese character they shoehorned into Ocean’s Eleven, evidently all the characters spoke Chinese but never did so onscreen please. It was bad enough see Brad Pitt sleepwalk through that movie with food in his hand.

    • 17.2 panshel

      But they didn’t understand one another. That was the running gag in the restaurant scene when the two teams first met. Both were talking smack about the other team thinking they couldn’t understand their language. Andrew, Macao Park, and Zampano spoke and understood Mandarin, while Chen and Chewing Gum communicated to each other in Japanese. And everyone else pretty much used English.

    • 17.3 D

      when we first move back to my hometown, my son speaks english to his friends and they understand him fine. it is possible.

  18. 18 β™ͺβ™ͺ β™₯ β™₯ β™₯ β™ͺβ™ͺ

    The first 10 minutes was super cool and exciting, but after 30 minutes it became so boring and so draggy that I have to take coffee to keep myself awake in the middle of the afternoon just to continue watching it…

    Do not care/root for any of the characters except maybe Angelica Lee’s character who does not annoy me… Ocean 11 and Italian Job was better because of the adrenaline rush and I was rooting for the main characters…

    Disappointment and overrated… 5/10 for me…

    You’re right about “the women in the film actually are all better fleshed out than the men”.. there is no explosive sexiness..or that naughty sparkle glint in any of the male characters eyes like Clooney / Pitt / Whalberg to ROOT for… all we get here are messy clowny hair, ugly looking moustache ahjussi and dumb young inexperienced boy.. I guess that’s why I did not like it…

    I believe The Thieves is for the guys – there’s great action and beautiful smart ladies..

    • 18.1 enkhee

      Ugly looking moustache ajusshi??
      Dumb young inexperienced boy??

      dafaq? I didn’t enjoy the movie as much but it had a great cast. Kim Soo Hyun yelling out love youuu was a nice moment in an otherwise emptyish movie.

    • 18.2 panshel

      I, too, found their first heist against Shin Ha Kyun to be way more exciting than their actual heist for the Tear of the Sun diamond. I prefer my heists without guns and hostages. That’s why I loved the brains behind the Ocean’s Eleven heist.

  19. 19 xhaydn

    I thought Gianna’s name was Anycall… lol
    anyways, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie! πŸ™‚ I thought it would be like the korean ocean’s eleven but it wasnt. (there were more females in this one LOL)

    I especially liked the character names. Chewing gum? μ”Ήλ˜κ»Œ? Hilarious.
    thanks for the review! ^0^

  20. 20 Russe12

    Thanks for the review!

    I watched this movie just last week, and really enjoyed it. It wasn’t anything super new or innovative, but it knew what it was doing and it did the job very well. It was extremely enjoyable, but also something you could walk away from and not think about it too much afterwards. I think the only part of the story that really stuck with me was the Chen/Chewinggum plotline.

    But all in all, a very slick and entertaining movie!

  21. 21 jandoe

    Ah great review, I wholeheartedly agree πŸ™‚

  22. 22 bmore

    I liked the movie, really I did. Good, well written and acted. Most certainly didn’t dream it would end up being the best selling of all time in Korea! THAT makes NO Sense. There is no doubt in my mind it’s because Kim Soo Hyun was in this movie that this happened. The tweenies jacked up the box office. He’s the reason I put it on my list in the first place!

    • 22.1 alua

      …see the recently released Secretly Greatly… also heading for success thanks to (prob.) tweenies jacking up the box office!

  23. 23 Seehorce

    Well written review. Blah movie.

  24. 24 TP

    Actually, I thought The Thieves is the second-highest most successful film of all time. According to Wikipedia, The Thieves is ranked with 12.9 million. The Host still comes first with 13 million.

    • 24.1 javabeans

      As I understand it, there are two major sources of box office tallies (Korean Film Council versus distributor). There is a slight difference between them because KOFIC excludes certain theaters and facilities from their count. One set of numbers puts The Thieves over 13 million and over The Host at No. 1, the other has it a few thousand tickets under.

      • 24.1.1 TP

        Overall, the #1 ranking is debatable?

      • 24.1.2 Kiara

        I think “The Host” would be ahead if we look at their budget. The Thieves spent about 3.4 billion won more than “The Host.”

        • Kiara

          Let me rephrase it. “The Host” would the clear winner when it comes to making the most money between the 2 movies.

          • refresh_daemon

            Yeah, admittedly, the “most successful” is only if you look at it terms of total admissions and you’ll get different numbers from different sources. The Host has a really long tail to account for as well having been out for over six years. So I should have written “arguably the most successful.” πŸ™‚

    • 24.2 melusine

      Yeah, I think I’d take KOFIC’s stats over the distributor’s, which has a vested interest.

  25. 25 TenLotus

    Thanks for the review! I recently watched it so I’m happy seeing it reviewed here, looking forward to future reviews!

    It was an enjoyable movie. Glad Jeon Ji Hyun was in it.

  26. 26 alua

    Well, there is this:

    But apparently there seem to be different numbers out there, which is hinted at (but not clarified) here:

    It’s definitely highest grossing Korean movie of all times, but the impression I get that is some debate in terms of the highest number of admissions. I can’t seem to find any details on why there are apparently different totals available…

    • 26.1 alua

      That was supposed to go under TP’s comment… :-/

      • 26.1.1 TP

        Sorry alua, I didn’t see your comment on the debatability before posting it. Thank you, though!

        • TP

          Sorry again, I mean I didn’t see your comment on the debate BEFORE posting my comment. Again, thanks.

          • alua

            No need to apologise! If anything, looking for a clear answer made me realise that the data is dispersed pretty randomly and it’s difficult to get to all the numbers in one place (both admissions and takings, for all years, easily searchable).

            It’s going to be even more difficult in the future, because I think they announced a few months back that they would only calculate takings and no longer the number of admissions in the future, meaning we won’t be able to do comparisons across years very easily!

          • Hazel

            @alua: I hate that method of measuring films’ performances. It’s basically a way for studios to lie and pretend the movie industry is doing better than it actually is, when really it comes down to inflation/higher ticket prices, 3-D surchages, etc.

            Hollywood does the same thing and it drives me crazy…no more so than when Avatar was released and Hollywood kept crowing about how it was the highest grossing movie of all time, but when you judge it by number of tickets sold it comes in somewhere in the 20s behind Mary Poppins, The Graduate, Jurassic Park, several Disney films, Star Wars Episodes I, IV-VI, etc.

          • alua

            I know! I was shaking my head when they announced the switch… number of admissions makes so much more sense, precisely because of the reasons you list.

            Or, if anything, give both at least.

    • 26.2 Ivoire

      Thanks Alua for the info and the links!

  27. 27 alua

    Still haven’t watched it… it’s not too high on my list-of-films to see, because the genre isn’t so much my thing but we’ll see!

  28. 28 Quiet Thought

    Wow. Just found a fine version of ‘The Thieves’ on YouTube, “for educational nonprofit use only under the fair use act!” First twenty minutes is really pretty to look at, plenty of cool thievish banter, and you can see the ethnic and personal tensions building up already.

  29. 29 Bradstalls

    Great review! I’ve read all your reviews to date but I’m not usually one to comment. But considering some of the negative critism, I thought I should just drop some praise. I don’t think people realise that reviewers are taking time to write things for us therefore it is just plain ride to nitpick on what? Misplaced comas. Sorry, but If anything we should be talking about the content not the presentation. Anyway… That is just my opinion! Thanks for taking time and writing this, I always hoped that dramabeans would start reviewing movies – makes this website even more enjoyable! πŸ™‚

    • 29.1 Bradstalls


    • 29.2 Kiara

      They have been doing movie reviews for a while now, just not as often. I remember watching “Bow, The Ultimate Weapon” last year from one of HeadsNo2’s movie review.

  30. 30 panshel

    The Thieves honestly is not a caper flick as it was touted to be. The movie was trying to be too many genres at one time — heist, action, drama, romance, even throw in some melo. I already found it impossible to believe that Chen and Chewing Gum were ready to spend their whole lives together, but then when they died in the car accident together, I was just smh. Not to say that I wouldn’t recommend the film; it is definitely watchable and mostly entertaining, just nowhere near Ocean’s Eleven-epic.

    The Thieves did make me remember what an amazing actress Jeon Ji Hyun is (Yenicall was badass!) and also made me realize how hot Kim Soo Hyun is (which I didn’t find him to be previously). My biggest question from the casino is what happened to Derek Tsang? I counted the thieves who got arrested and those who got away but kept coming up one short. Did I miss Johnny’s ending?

    • 30.1 refresh_daemon

      You didn’t miss Johnny. The movie was juggling too many balls and dropped him while trying to get into Macao Park’s story with Wei Hong.

  31. 31 anynow

    Misplace comma, really guys?. The comment section on this review has turn into yahoo comment section..*sigh*

  32. 32 David

    Yenicall is Anycall, the samsung phone brand

    • 32.1 refresh_daemon

      I guess I got the name wrong. I was wondering what a “Yenicall” was the whole time. I kept reading “μ˜ˆλ‹ˆμ½œ” on the Korean sites I found on the film and didn’t realize that it was supposed to be (a play on?) “μ• λ‹ˆμ½œ”.

      • 32.1.1 ditdut

        And I believe Jeon was Anycall’s previous model.

  33. 33 Quiet Thought

    Awesomely entertaining caper flick, just finished a while ago. Two much Hong Kong action flick bloodbath towards the end, and a few minutes trimmed out of that section would have made it a lot better. Two many dead and wounded Korean cops tend to spoil the heist movie atmosphere. Cops have families, too.

    The comments were fascinating to read after the fact, though the drift of disapproval here might be reated to the cross-section trending towards flower-boy fans. Kim Soo-hyun plays a minor character, and if that’s why you tuned in, you’re sure to be disappointed.

    On the other hand, I didn’t bother with the Oceans movies at all, since they were, like their Frank Sinatra-Rat Pack ancestors, never intended to be anything but fluffy leading man vehicles. Not interested, and probably my loss, from the point of view of the Ocean pack’s fans.

  34. 34 Quiet Thought

    Have to agree that the female roles here sparked the film, if only because they were more vividly written and acted than the male roles. On the other hand, I had no problem following the characters, all of them nicely defined. Unlike a number of American films I could mention, the characters were different enough in age, background, and style, unlike crime flicks where everyone is a good-looking 30-something male badass and you need a directory to tell them apart.

    Heist/Caper films tend to vary along two axes, one of fluff versus grit (‘The Pink Panther’ to ‘Reservoir Dogs’) and the other of anti-hero versus karma (‘Oceans 11’ to ‘The Usual Suspects’). ‘The Thieves’ manages to operate in the middle on both scales. There are anti-heroic charismatic characters you want to succeed, as long as they don’t kill innocents, but you can also see how, as Chen tells Chewing Gum, the thing has to fail, has to fall apart. Everyone involved is a thief, they are self-destructive by nature, and they are going to make bad decisions.

    Special kudos to Kim Hye-soo, as the world’s most ravishing 42 year old, and may she find more roles where men of good taste are giving her the eye like that curator in the last scene.

  35. 35 Brian

    While I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, there were of course flaws in it. Jianna Jun’s antics were hilarious and of course sexy. And Kim Hye soo was also fun to watch. But the strangest thing I couldn’t figure out was there was a horrifying headon car crash — which of course could be fatal in any situation — but there were no (possibly) lifesaving airbags deployed in the car. I don’t believe that the car they were driving was that old or from a country that bans or just doesn’t care to stick em in the car. Anyway, while that was a problem for me, I’ve started to notice that flaw shows up a lot in movies or television shows where they need to have a fatal crash.

    Anyway, thanks for the review — you did a pretty good job — I didn’t notice any glarifying grammar errors and usually I’m the head of the grammar nazis. I think the best thing about the movie is to just turn off your thinking caps and sit back and enjoy the ride πŸ™‚

  36. 36 Sam

    I’m finally glad to hear, after many months… people agree with me. It wasn’t as great as anticipated, and I got to see it in a movie theatre. Ain’t that a treat to see a Korean movie on North American soil? I thought it would be like Ocean’s Eleven, and everyone worked together for the common goal, but it turned out to be every man/woman for them self, and it didn’t leave feeling happy that they pulled off the heist. It was just trickery after trickery. Even up to the last 2 minutes.

    As for the write-up, it’s fine. The idea that you took the time to put down your thoughts and give us a big picture view of the story and directing, you’ve done much of us a great favour to make choices about whether to catch this movie, or not. That’s the point I think.

    I grew up on Simon Yam, and he still ‘has’ it for a man his age. Too bad his life was short, like many other characters in this film. So many other shortcomings of this film, and for once, the movie theatre was fullish (people-wise)… yet I left disappointed. Oh well, on to the next korean movie!

  37. 37 Quiet Thought

    Hmmm . . . I think this would be the important insight from this discussion: this is NOT an Oceans’ 11 ripoff! This is a different kind of heist film, more along the axis towards the older tradition of harder edged films from the Noir era, but still funny.

    Sam is correct, though, a lot of movie chase scenes would lose their drama if Hollywood admitted the existence of air bags. The movies have the same problem with scenes on airliners. If they shot them in sets as cramped as real American passenger aircraft, there wouldn’t be any drama. No one would have any room to act. The scene would always be about the audience wondering why the characters and flight attendents are all stuffed into that cramped shot.

  38. 38 Makoto

    Just watch it last night. It makes me realize that I am already old. Because after watching this movie, it was Simon Yam who came to my dream, instead of Kim Soo Hyun. =))

  39. 39 lemonade candy

    my god~ I’m so done talking grammar at school. Here too? =.=”

  40. 40 kdramalover

    GOOD REVIEW…as always ^^ btw i hope you do a review on Lee min ki’s very ordinary couple…:D

  41. 41 jubilantia

    Finally watched this. I enjoyed it, but I was expecting it to be tighter; I agree on the pacing issues at the end. Also, get your melo character deaths out of my fluffy heist movie, Korea! WTF?

    Plus, it sort of forgot about half the characters. I mean, presumably Zampano is in jail, but I would have liked a bit more resolution. I also really liked the Macao chase bits, but I feel like they could have been woven in more organically. I thought the way the ending tied things up worked really well, but it would have been nice to at least see what everyone else was doing.

    Anyway, a bit over-hyped, but still fun.

  42. 42 Sue

    Hi guys,
    How can I contact to Ms. Kim Hye Soo? Sorry if i’m asking stupid question. I’m not in Korea. Thank you very much

  43. 43 cinthy

    I was expecting something way better and I was dissapointed. The best of this movie is kim soo hyun and that kiss :O
    Ocean’s eleven is way better, the heist, the characters were all boring and robbing a casino with guns, showing your face???? seriously?? come on, anyone can do better than that.

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