Finally got to watch the highest-grossing South Korean film last year, The Thieves (도둑들), and I'm glad to say that it lived up to the hype. It's not perfect but it didn't disappoint.
The film opens with a team of South Korean professional thieves, Popie (Lee JungJae), Yenicall (Jun JiHyun), Chewing Gum (Kim HaeSook), and Zampano (Kim SooHyun), on the move to steal an antique bowl. It's enough to set the move of the film, with half of the main characters already introduced with their corresponding roles in the heist group as well. Flash forward to Popie announcing their new anssignment which involves a certain Macao Park (Kim YunSeok) and a group of thieves from Hong Kong, Chen (Simon Yam), Andrew (Oh DalSoo), Julie (Angelica Lee) and Johnny (Derek Tsang). The heist takes place in a casino but it's really just one necklace they're after.
People have been dubbing The Thieves as South Korea's take on Hollywood's Ocean Eleven and it's close enough, but not quite so since the former's a lot more dramatic. Just don't ask me which one's better because I've never been good at comparing. I'd rather keep this entire rant strictly about our SK film.
There's a whole lot of deception going on in the plot, and I think there's a general consensus that you just can't trust anyone because they're thieves and for goodness's sake, you just can't trust them. Some of them keep this in mind but some just want to get their job done well, in time, in sync. This is until everything goes downhill and they learn that trusting a thief isn't exactly something that they should do regularly. It ends well for some but others are just in the losing end.
(I am trying hard not to be a spoil sport here, and it's extremely difficult.)
My favorite part of the movie is definitely the first part, when they're planning the casino heist and the execution of the plan itself. It's a thrilling narrative, each player doing their job so well, and some getting way too into their roles. It's exciting and it's gripping. If only they have focused more on this part of the story, I could have loved it more.
The second part, on the other hand, couldn't really match this energy. I kind of wish they left out the revenge angle, and I kind of wish they didn't give too much emphasis on the love triangle of Macao Park, Pepsee and Popie. Because frankly, the romance angle between Yenicall and Zampano, and Chewing Gum and Chen are much more interesting and thrilling. The flirting between Yenicall and Zampano is something I didn't expect but I welcomed with open arms because it's just so fresh (and cute). But if we're talking about romance, Chewingum and Chen's interaction takes the cake. Completely surprised me when it happened and devastated me when it ended. As for Macao Park and Pepsee's love story? I just can't get emotionally invested in it. There's just too much angst that simply do not fit the mould of such adults.
This is quite sad since the second part has all these fight scenes (the wall fight between Macao Par and the Chinese gangsters! omg!), chasing sequences, wire stunts and a whole lot of cunning maneuvers by our leads. But still, it's not as exciting as the Macao casino heist. The finale ends up to be a tiring cycle of gaining the necklace from one character to another. It's a competition of wits and sometimes bluffing. It veers into the cliche at times but I'm glad that it still manages to surprise the viewers in some turns.
However, it's a heist film. I came for the lightness of the plot, but when I was bombarded with a contrived love triangle and adults stuck in puberty, it turned me off quite a bit. I want more action, less drama.
The thing about me is that when I don't like something in a movie, I talk way too much about it. But when I love it, I end up saying too little. Just is the case for this movie. This is turning into a negative review when the truth is I really enjoyed this film, and yes, I recommend it. (A bad way to end a rant but there you have it.)