As advanced and awesome as Korean dramas are, Korean movies tend to lack compared to their Hollywood counterparts. But The Thieves, directed by Choi Dong-Hoon, stands out as different; it’s as entertaining and captivating as Korean movies get. At the time of this writing, The Thieves (도둑들) is the second highest grossing Korean film in history.
But it’s not surprising — look at this cast! Add in other superb actors like Kim Hae-Sook, and with a half-decent storyline, the film would have been a huge success. But the storyline is actually quite outstanding. The storyline is quite similar to “Ocean’s Eleven” — often being called The Korean Ocean’s Eleven. A bunch of thieves, conmen, and bandit-esque folks located both in Korea, Hong Kong and Macau plot heists that just never seem to go exactly as planned. The characters are well-developed, each with their own story and history — and agenda. From safe-breaker Pepsi (played by the gorgeous Kim Hye-Soo) to the group leader Popie (Lee Jung-Jae), each member of the star-studded cast holds his or her own.
Kim Hae-Sook, in her usual remarkable way, is more than capable of holding her own and shining in the role as “Piece of Gum” or “Kkum-ddak-Ji”. She’s involved in the heist as the mother of Jeon Ji-Hyun’s character, Yenicall. Much like the supporting role she had in series like “Suspicious Housekeeper” where she singlehandedly adds so much humor and tenderness to the series, she does the same in The Thieves.
Despite it being a high-action movie, the females in this movie take the leads. Kim Hye-Soo and Jeon Ji Hyun have high-tension dynamics, and their individual roles and how the actors handled the roles clearly show why these are two leading ladies in the Korean acting circuit for the last 20 years.
In the video above, which I’ve subtitled in English for you, you can see some outtakes from the filming of The Thieves — showcasing some scenes with Jeon Ji-Hyun doing her own stunts as well as the filming of the kissing scene between Kim Soo-Hyun and Jeon Ji Hyun, or Kim Hye-Soo’s recollection of the various injuries and freak accidents on the set while she was the only one without any real action scenes. Due to the all-star cast, this production was highly publicized prior to the release of the film.
The storyline is entertaining enough to keep you glued to the set while The Thieves is playing. A team of thieves in Korea join up with a team of thieves in Macau to steal a priceless diamond from a mob boss. There are many complex dynamics between the characters and some history of who was whose boss, and who was whose lover — and you never quite know who is in it for the team or who is in it for themselves.
The strangest thing was that when this movie came out, I had no idea who Kim Soo Hyun is. We watched it and I recall his character of Zampano, but I never made the connection that Zampano was Kim Soo Hyun when I watched The Moon that Embraces the Sun where he played the king, or when he hit utter stardom with his latest series, My Love From Another Star. Watching The Thieves now is a different experience knowing that this was Kim Soo Hyun’s first big screen debut, and that he would grow to play such leading roles in the next few years to the point that women across Asia are swooning over him, and he might be the most marketable star at the time of this writing, as shown in this article.
Definitely devote a couple of hours to watching The Thieves — I think you’ll be highly pleased with this Korean movie. I’ve included it below but the subtitles are really bad. If I get a chance, I will redo them and upload again. If you have a membership, it’s also available on Netflix with good subtitling — or you can buy the movie on Amazon.