Once a Thief

Once a Thief

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

Once a Thief

"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.


Interesting trivia:

Back to Movie Review index