‘The Thieves’ – Korean high tech heist, free on Kanopy and Hoopla

Simon Yam stars in the South Korean heist thriller

The Thieves (South Korea, 2012) is Asia’s answer to the Ocean’s films, a sleek, snappy heist movie with plenty of working parts, eccentric personalities, and convoluted plotlines complicated even more by a confusing flashback structure more entertaining than elucidating and more twists than you can easily track.

The basic premise brings together two separate crack crews, one from South Korea and one from Hong Kong, and sends them to Macau to steal a priceless (and ostensibly nonexistent) diamond necklace from a brutal crime boss. The mysterious mastermind of this heist (Kim Yun-seok) who has his own agenda, but then who doesn’t? Half the crew is out to rip off the other half, which is already just out for themselves.

As a fan of the Hong Kong New Wave, I have a soft spot for Simon Yam, an elder statesman of Chinese pop movie stardom who here is given a genuinely romantic / tragic heroism. It’s just one of the many boxes the film checks off in its everything-plus-the-kitchen sink conglomeration of heist movie conventions. It’s also got romance, pulp crime tragedy, reversals of sympathy, and some pretty thrillingly staged and executed action scenes. Mostly, it just hurtles ahead and sweeps us up in the silliness. Not that it is any sillier than American examples of the genre. We may not recognize the Korean stars playing the high-tech heist games, but a slick, bouncy star vehicle works the same in any language.

Not rated, in Korean with English subtitles.

Streams free for a limited time on Kanopy and on Hoopla, which are available through most public and college library systems.

Also on Blu-ray and DVD (with two featurettes in Korean with subtitles) and on SVOD through Amazon Video and other services. Availability may vary by service.
The Thieves [Blu-ray]
The Thieves [DVD]

Don’t miss a single recommendation. Subscribe to the Stream On Demand weekly newsletter (your E-mail address will not be shared) and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

Related posts