Once a Thief
Golden Harvest, 1990, 102 min.
AKA: Killer Target
Manadrin title: Zong Heng Si Hai
Nominated for Best Film at the 1991 Hong Kong Film Awards
Director: John Woo
Stars: Chow Yun-Fat ("Joe"), Leslie Cheng ("Jim"), Cherie Chung ("Cherie"), John Woo ("Stanley Wu")
Producers: Tenence Chang and Linda Kuk
Writer: John Woo
Cinematographer: John Woo (?)
Editor: David Wu
Available on video (widescreen and subtitled) from Tai Seng
"They only stop to reload."
(The following review was written by Cliff Hicks, Opinion Editor, Daily Nebraskan. If you want to comment on it, send him e-mail here.)
While not chock full of gunfire, John Woo's Once a Thief is one of his best films, a wry combination of comedy, action and sheer style. A lot of John Woo fans are unfamiliar with his comedies, but Once a Thief is definitely one to pick up. The story plays out with casual grace and the three stars have good solid chemistry.
Chow Yun-Fat and Cherie Chung (who are a couple), along with Lesile Cheung as the third wheel, are professional thieves. The opening sequence is flashy yet humorous and sets the tone for the entire film. There is a lot of action in Once a Thief and the film plays out like Hudson Hawk should have. (Come to think of it, there really hasn't been a good heist film in a long damn time.) From breaking into a castle to creative use of wine glasses and showy acrobatics, there's a lot to Once a Thief.
The end fight scene has CYF showing off some martial arts and lampooning Bruce Lee. There is still some standard John Woo shooting (and some of the classic slo-mo shots), but don't expect to see Hard-Boiled here. It's more playful and lighthearted than any of Woo's recent films (and, I hope, is what we can expect when King's Ransom eventually arrives).
Once a Thief is one of Woo's best films and well worth anyone's time, fan or not.
Here's my take on Once a Thief:
This is a pretty good movie. It's more light-hearted than a lot of Woo's modern works, so if you're expecting The Killer or Hard-Boiled, you might be disappointed. But it does move along at a pretty good clip, and the chemistry between Chow and Cheung (which was touched on in A Better Tomorrow 2) is great -- plus the final shootout (which has Chow doing his best Bruce Lee imitation, complete with backflips) is pure Woo all the way.
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