Right out of the gate, there is an “Ocean’s 11” vibe to director Dong-Hoon Choi’s “The Thieves.” It’s flashy, has an ensemble cast and starts off just as light-hearted. In its native country it was one of the highest grossest films ever. One can see why as it has all the essentials to be a blockbuster. There are flashbacks to various characters showing the audience briefly how the characters got to where they presently are and the twists and turns are aplenty. Where it starts to deviate from Soderbergh’s film is when it switches from lighthearted nature to a more dark and sobering tone after the heist.
There are so many different characters, teams, nationalities and backgrounds that you would need a Venn diagram to explain it all but here it goes. At the start, a small group of professional thieves are in the middle of their current heist. Each player has their role. Chewing Gum (Hae-suk Kim) and Yenicall (Gianna Jin) are posing as a high class mother-daughter pair wooing a young rich man to get to his riches at his place of work. Several of their team members (Kim Hye-soo and Simon Yam) are on a nearby rooftop constructing some wiring for the heist. Through some trickery and propelling/repelling they successfully get what they want and get away successfully. Afterwards they are given a new heist opportunity to work with a bigger crew for a bigger pay day. Here, old relationships turn up, plans are hatched and all the stakes and double-crosses are fair game. A big wig in the criminal filed Macau Park (Kim Yeo-seok) is putting together the operation. He is feared yet respected as he is one of the best. There are many twists and turn that crop up and to talk about them would be a disservice to any future viewer. What I can say is that the main heist is actually all wrapped up by the end of the second act, leaving a good chuck afterwards to sort everything out.
Plot-wise, there is a lot going on with many different characters being shuffled around and just as many flashbacks. Unfortunately it can be hard to follow because they all have differently shown back stories and different connections with other team members. There are also some unexpected character fates that are upsetting but at the same time refreshing to see. It helps add weight to the overall experience. The action scenes have some nice moments of green screen seamlessly interspersed with CGI. In particular, a roving shot high above Hong Kong ending in a tight close up of someone scaling a building. However the camera doesn’t cut away before some nifty camerawork lingers on some precariously staged action.
Well GO USA presents “The Thieves” in 1080P with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Using the Red Epic HD camera, the Blu-ray looks sharp and carries a large amount of detail in each shot. It does not look overtly digitialized as it has a nice filmic quality to it. There are many nice moments of contrast and color especially once inside the casino. Many scenes alternate between the bright daylight of the streets to the swooping nighttime cityscape shots that are full of lights and moving objects. Black crush is not an issue.
There is one track option, an aggressive Korean DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. The front part of the movie is primarily dialogue driven. The speakers do not truly take off until halfway through when the action ramps up. There are car chases and accompanying crashes, gunfire, metal wires snapping, screaming, falling and things whizzing around the sound field. Rear activity is fully present and a nice bass filled soundtrack is great throughout. Dialogue is mostly clear as there is a variety of languages spoken. No matter which language you speak, more than likely you will need to use the subtitles.
There are two 5 minutes extras on the disc. First is a “Making of” which goes into some of the effects and wirework used. It’s short but interesting to see. Second is a “Meet the Thieves” feature that helps delineate all the characters involved. This would be especially useful for anyone who might want to watch the movie a second time. Last is a trailer for the film in HD.
“The Thieves” at times can get fairly convoluted, especially when reading the subtitles as all the twists and turns keep coming. It does lose its way in that respect but that does not mean it isn’t an entertaining film. The characters have some nice dialogue which helps the viewer have fun with them and enjoy their antics. The video and audio are perfectly complimentary to the film creating an entertaining experience all around. Not much for extras but this is recommended as a rental first.