After directing possibly his two best films back-to-back
(The Killer and Bullet In The Head), director John Woo
moved away from dark gritty action dramas to direct the 1990
action/comedy Once A Thief. Once A Thief is clearly one of the director's favorite films
as he would go on to make a US re-make of the film in 1995 and
subsequently producing a TV Series following the US TV Pilot which
Three orphans Jim, Joe and Cherie are raised by a powerful crime lord
to be professional thieves.
The trio goes off to Paris to stage a daring heist to steal a valuable
painting. During the course of the heist, an ambush is set up by their
own foster father to kill off the trio and retrieve the painting.
Unaware that they are betrayed by their own foster father, Joe manages
to escape with the painting and Cherie while Jim is presumed killed
in a car crash.
Three years later, Jim returns crippled in a wheelchair to re-united
with his two siblings and plot revenge against their evil foster
Some Woo fans have snubbed Once A Thief, saying it's one of the
worst films the director did while he was still working in Hong Kong.
I disagree with the remark as I find Once A Thief very
enjoyable and probably placed it ahead of A Better Tomorrow II
on my list of favorite John Woo films. One simply cannot watch
Once A Thief expecting something as powerful or as dark as his
two previous films; The Killer and Bullet In The Head.
First of all,Once A Thief is an action comedy caper film made
in a style true to the old-fashioned caper films which the director
himself admired. As a romantic action comedy,Once A Thief
succeeds very well, as the mixture of action comedy and romance is
The daring heist at the start of the film which consists of a
Woo-style shoot-out and a slick car chase sequences all lived up to
Woo billing as the world best action film director. The romance that
follows is not overdone such as in the case of The Big Hit that
even the most hard-core action fans wouldn't mind.
The cast really helped make this film shine as the leads Chow Yun-Fat,
Leslie Cheung and Cherie Chung proves to be versatile enough to
shuffle from the action sequences to the comedy and romantic parts
The male-bonding between Leslie Cheung and Chow Yun-Fat are further
explored in this film which we didn't get to see in the first two
A Better Tomorrow episodes.
Cherie and Chow proves once again that they have the right on-screen
chemistry following their successful outing in the excellent romance
flick, An Autumn's Tale .
Once A Thief probably has one of the best cast in a John Woo
film as the cast list is round up with talented veteran actors playing
supporting roles like Kenneth Tsang and Chu Kong.
Any true John Woo fan shouldn't miss Once A Thief as it displays
the director's versatility at filmmaking.