Ain't It Cool News (
Movie News

Monty Cristo reviews THE THIEVES

“Monty Cristo” here.



The site backend ate the review I wrote earlier today. The plan was to have it up this morning well in advance of the online box office for tonight’s screening in Austin closing. Oh well.


I found myself in Dallas all of a sudden at the end of last week for work, and was therefore able to see this movie that I blind-programmed. We’ve sold 170 out of around 200 tickets for a Korean movie that no one attending has seen at a fest, on an import disc, or anything. The trailer looks like a lot of fun, and in fact, the movie is a lot of fun too.



On the surface, it may look like a glossy, big-budget Asian OCEAN’S ELEVEN ripoff (which doesn’t sound that bad in and of itself), but it actually does a number of things rather differently. The variances merely begin with there being four primary female protagonists (instead of one) and a more contentious, everyone-for-themselves crew going for the big score.


The movie opens in the middle of “Popie/Popeye” and his crew pulling a job in Korea. Popie is played by Lee Jung-jae, the handsome star of THE HOUSEMAID remake who also does high fashion modeling. His looks play into his character being treated by his team as a peer without the grit or gravitas of a boss. It’s a notion that he resents, but which he feels helpless to change very much.



His crew includes sexpot acrobat Yenicall (Jeon Ji-hyun, star of MY SASSY GIRL), veteran lady thief “Chewingum” (THIRST’s Kim Hae-suk), and shy pretty boy Zampano (up-and-coming teen soap star Kim Soo Hyun). Zampano is obsessed with Yenicall, and Chewingum is ready to retire.


Popie’s mentor and colleague “Macao” Park (THE YELLOW SEA and THE CHASER’s Kim Yun-seok) gets in touch about a big score: the Tear of the Sun diamond. It’s a job so big that the team we’ve just met need to team up with a group from Hong Kong to pull it off. Before they leave for a meetup, “Pepsi” (3 EXTREMES II and RED SHOES’s Kim Hye-su) gets out of jail on parole. She has a history with both Popie and Macao Park, and we see the first seeds of conflict sewn, as well as the first hint of the double crossing to come.


The job is this: retrieve the diamond from the wealthy older woman staying at a particular Macanese casino through a series of complex misdirections and tricks. Then, they must fence it through one of two or three guys who can move a piece worth more than $20 Million.



The Hong Kong crew includes expert safecracker Julie (THE EYE’s Angelica Lee), another pretty boy named Johnny (Derek Tsang), the buffoonish “Korean-Chinese” Andrew (Oh Dal-su), and veteran badass Chen (Simon Yam). Oh Dal-su will look familiar if you’ve seen OLDBOY, THE HOST, THE GOOD/THE BAD/THE WEIRD, or THIRST. He’s great here as always. Simon Yam lends the movie a fair amount of gravitas. If you watch much Hong Kong action product, you’ll have seen him recently in the IP MAN movies, TRIANGLE, S.P.L. (Aka KILL ZONE), and various others. He gives one of the best performances in the film.


The meeting of the two groups provides yet further character development, which fleshes them out as real people rather than simply the archetypes they’re set to fill. I have to also mention that I was delighted to find how realistic their inter-racism was as well. More cracks form in the thin ice.


We also get a peek at the backup plans that many seem to have put in place or begin to from this point. There truly is no honor among these thieves in many ways, but there are various notable and delightful exceptions that surface in the form of unexpected friendships and even some fleeting, dare I say MOVING romance. I got the feeling that not everyone was going to make it out of this thing alive, and when death comes, it carries weight.



It spoils nothing to mention that the heist itself is only the second act. This movie is about the people (hence the title), not just the job. The inception, act of doing, and aftermath of the job is what carries these characters out of the repetitive phase they find themselves in, driving their lives forward. Determining whether that good or bad for them is up to us.


Don’t get me wrong, this IS a glossy, big-budget caper movie starring some of Korea and Hong Kong’s biggest stars, and is heavily American in its influences. There are a couple of moments that struck me as a little saccharine, but on the whole, the stakes the movie sets are serious and real, and it delivers a fun, old-fashioned heist story with a heavy dose of modern style. It ties up the threads that need tying up, and yet leaves loose ends in yet others in a way that I found highly satisfying. THE THIEVES shows that once again, East Asia can be more than capable of producing action and thrills in the Hollywood mold, possibly in a more focused manner than Hollywood itself can anymore.


It’ll be in theaters for a few more weeks, and I’m guessing it should be on video sometime in early 2013. See it while you can in a theater.


Austinites can come out tonight at 8pm (Alamo South Lamar) if they want, since a few tickets are still available at the door.




Moisés Chiullan / "Monty Cristo"
Arthouse Cowboy
Screen Time podcast on

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus
    + Expand All
  • Oct. 17, 2012, 5:34 p.m. CST

    Monty Cristo: Y U NO MAKE TEXT BIGGER??

    by kindofabigdeal

    It often looks too long to read even though it's probably shorter than one of Kidds cynical rants.

  • I mean, on one hand it seems like it'd be a tired cash grab and watering down of an established franchise, like many other Part 4's of a movie series, but at the same time, looking at this review makes me realize how much I'd love to see another American-made big heist movie. And after all, wouldn't it simply seem weird to see a new big group heist picture come out, but that was completely different than the Ocean's crew?

  • He can still EP, and maybe he can even have a connection/relationship with the new director (his longtime 1st AD Greg Jacobs?), but having another guy lead the way could make a real difference.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 7:35 p.m. CST

    Ocean's 11 was awesome, just watched it the other day

    by Mugato5150

    the other 2 were terrible though. Well 2 was terrible. 3 was just everyone phoning it in. but the first was great. And yes, it was better than the original. Just because the Rat Pack was in it doesn't mean it didn't suck.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 9:46 p.m. CST

    Saw this at TIFF

    by Humie Bubbie

    It was pretty good, the balcony chase scene was spectacular, and overall it had some great action scenes. But the tone was weird. It swung back and forth from comedic to serious. Worth a watch.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 10:15 p.m. CST

    Literally half the cast has the surname Kim

    by evilmasterfoo

    I know it's a common name and all, but you don't see Hollywood movies where half the cast is named Smith or Jones... just sayin'...

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 11:15 p.m. CST

    yenicall is smokin' hot

    by gun_will_travel

    if only this movie was "the sunbathers" instead of The Thieves

  • Oct. 18, 2012, 1:21 a.m. CST


    by Glenn

    Totally, the original is an excuse for those guys to clown around, not make a professional film. Sooo badly dated and horribly acted, especially Lawford. I often get into arguments with my dad about why newer movies can be better. He argued incessantly with me about why he refused to see the new True Grit. Then he did. And called me. And was an effusive fan and seemed to forget that I told him it was much better than the Wayne one. Just shows me that you have to be on guard against becoming fossilized in your opinions. However, I have yet to see a remake recently outside these two examples that were as good or better. Tho H2 had some good stuff in it -- yeah, the one everyone else hates -- but tho I love the original two Halloweens, the 2nd one was pretty crappy.

  • Oct. 18, 2012, 2:19 a.m. CST


    by TheSeeker7

    I don't think there's any question that the Ocean's 11 remake was light years beyond the original. I mean THAT is the perfect situation in which to produce a remake, when the original idea was solid, but the actual execution was piss poor. Obviously not being alive back in the 60's I can't say for sure, but my best guess would be that the Rat Pack members genuinely thought they could coast on their existing coolness and popularity for that movie being successful. Which, I've never looked at the numbers, maybe for back at that point, it was reasonably so.<br> <br> Mind you, I can't imagine there's anyone could disagree that O12 is easily the weakest link in the chain. O13 is still significantly behind O11, but I honestly believe it was good enough to be worthy of the franchise name. They realized they made a major misstep with O12 and they didn't wanna end that way, they came back with a quality punch in O13.<br> <br> I just really wish that Hollywood could take that same structure of an all star line up of actors and apply it to another paradigm. Of course I say this selfishly, I'm a huge Agatha Christie fan and my favorite story of all time is AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (aka 10 Little Indians). Including TV, this book has been adapted like a half dozen different times, and in my opinion none of them are worthy of the story name, for one thing every single one of them changes the ending, which to me is a dealbreaker. Years ago when I was just beginning to learn how to be a screenwriter, as a practice I wrote my own modern day adaptation of the book, and gradually improved upon it over the years. Especially in the wake of Ocean's 11, Christie's ATTWN seems like the absolute perfect piece of material to throw in a bunch of big names in a single setting and watching them get picked off one by one.<br> <br> If by god I ever do get to achieve my life long dream of writing/directing, that will always be my persona pet project to finally put together.

  • Therefore they don't allow outside influences ruin the storytelling.

  • Oct. 18, 2012, 5:43 a.m. CST

    The Thieves: Two hours of drooling over Jeon Ji-hyun

    by albert comin

  • Oct. 18, 2012, 5:47 a.m. CST

    @Mr evilmasterfoo

    by albert comin

    It looks to me that the most common name in Korea is Park. They are everywhere, both in names of fictional characters and as people involved in filmmaking, actors and directors alike. The director of Oldoby is a Park himself, and so is korean-american actress Gracie Park.

  • Oct. 18, 2012, 7:34 a.m. CST

    What's this about?

    by John Baranick

    I kinda stopped reading after seeing the gal in the tan boots.... Christ took me a couple tries to type this as it was.

  • Oct. 18, 2012, 8:33 a.m. CST

    Monty Sylvia Kristel "Emmanuelle" died. The Queen of Skinemax! Obit, please!

    by SergeantStedenko

  • Oct. 18, 2012, 8:40 a.m. CST

    Oceans is dead, but we need a few more heist movies in the mix.

    by TheMachinist

    Last one that's come out before this was Tower Heist, which was... meh.

  • Oct. 18, 2012, 9:49 a.m. CST

    Two words

    by Denty420

    Red Dwarf Thank you.

  • Oct. 18, 2012, 12:13 p.m. CST

    two words

    by Anthony Torchia

    brown midget thank you

  • Oct. 18, 2012, 12:17 p.m. CST


    by ajit maholtra

  • Oct. 18, 2012, 1:19 p.m. CST

    ajit_ Hi buddy!

    by kindofabigdeal

    I agree that it's Ocean 11 > Ocean 13 > Ocean 12. You could tell that 12 was an excuse for the actors to take a vacation and have the studio pay for it. Kinda like how Couples Retreat was. No matter how bad either movie was I can't blame the actors for pulling that "heist" off.

  • Half the country is either Lee, Kim, or Park.