Canadian poster

John Woo's Once a Thief

Once a Thief

AKA: Violent Tradition

WCG Entertainment, 1994, 95 min.

Director: John Woo
Stars: Sandrine Holt ("Li Ann"), Nicolas Lea ("Victor"), Ivan Sergei ("Mac"), Michael Wong ("Michael")
Producers: Terence Chang, Christopher Godsick, John Woo
Original story: John Woo
Screenplay: Glenn Davis, William Laurin
Cinematographer: Bill Wong
Editor: David Wu

Orginally produced as a pilot for Canadian TV; premiered in the US on the FOX network

Available on video from Alliance Communications

Available on DVD fom A-Pix -- a review can be found here

Listen to the theme from this movie by clicking here (318 KB wav file)

Thanks to Art Meets Action for the clip

US poster

"When you steal for a living, your only mission is to stay alive."

Li Ann, Mac and Michael are three life-long friends who also work for Michael's father (a high-powered crime boss) as high-society thieves. When Li Ann and Mac (who have become lovers) decide to try and escape from "the life," Michael's father decides to take them out by having Michael killing them during a robbery. Michael fails, and Li Ann ends up escaping, while Mac gets captured by the police.

While in prison, Mac is forceably recruited to work for a mysterious underground law-enforcement agency, where (surprise, surprise) Li Ann is also working. However, while Mac was in prison, she has become engaged to another agent, Victor. The three end up being forced to put aside their personal problems and take down Michael and his father.

While Once a Thief has the makings of a great story (in fact, it's based on one of Woo's HK movies), it ends up being very limp and boring. First off, the acting is simply horrible. All of the leads look and sound like they just came from Melrose Place or some other crappy soap opera, and as such, it's very hard to develop any real sympathy for them. Michael Wong, who's condsidered one of the worst actors in HK movies, is a master thespian compared with the other stiffs in this movie. The horrible acting may have been forgivable if the action scenes (what little there are) didn't suck as well. Probably because it was created for Canadian TV (which is notroious for censoring even pro wrestling shows for violence), Once a Thief's action scenes (while pretty good for TV) are just deadly boring compared to other Woo films. All in all, this one's for serious Woo fans only -- and then, mostly just as a curiosity piece.


Interesting trivia:

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