“Once a Thief” (1991 Chinese movie) review



As a fan of the many films John Woo has done over many decades, I never checked this one out until now for this review. A bonus is that it had Chow Yun Fat and Leslie Cheung from “A Better Tomorrow” and “A Better Tomorrow 2” in the lead roles which made it a must watch for me.


Jim, Joe, and Cherie are orphans that happen to be best friends since childhood. They had two different father figures to look up to. One was Chow who was a rich crime boss and mistreated them while the other was Chu, a cop who saw a lot of good in them. In their adulthood, the three friends become experts at stealing expensive works of art and get tangled in a love triangle. As a team, they must overcome their dangerous habit and try to go straight.


Unlike his other well known works from John Woo, “Once a Thief” was a bit more light hearted and wasn’t as dark even though there were lots of gunfire and action scenes. Leslie Cheung and Chow Yun Fat have shown that they have great synergy with John Woo.


It felt a lot different than John Woo’s other heroic bloodshed movies. I didn’t completely understand the need to keep stealing artwork as there are plenty of other valuable things to steal as well. I don’t know why it just has to be expensive paintings.


I felt that this movie had a much different vibe than the movies he was known for up to that point. It was very good, but it wasn’t at that classic stage. I felt the lag during many portions of the movie like anything that had to do with the love triangle.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Reviewed by: Mr. Timtastic

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