Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Once A Thief - 1991

"Once A Thief" is not the kind of movie you would expect from Hong Kong action maestro John Woo, and it came in between two very different movies, 1990's "Bullet In The Head" which was about concentration camps and 1992's "Hard Boiled" which is sort of the apex of the John Woo super violent ballet, both of which are excellent films. In the middle, however, you'll find "Once A Thief," which is a heist comedy, and I do not use the term "comedy" mockingly, because the film is pretty damn funny. In fact, in a lot of ways, you can see "Once A Thief" as the predecessor of the entire genre that Stephen Chow built, that sort of wacky, nonsensical comedy that doesn't really have to obey any rules of reality.

The story is about three orphans who have been quasi-adopted by, get this, both a crime boss and a police officer. They train to be thieves, but eventually want to get out of their life of crime. All the basic things you want out of a John Woo movie are here - big action set pieces, shoot outs, flashy cinematography, doves, fire, reflections... but you also get a delightfully weird romantic triangle, and comedy that veers between slapstick and dry wit at a moment's notice. And, it stars Chow Yun-Fat, who I will watch in pretty much anything...

The film is just so different than a lot of Woo's other works that many people may find it hard to believe that the man who brought us "Face/Off" would get caught up in what can only be described as "The Thomas Crown Affair" meets "Kung Fu Hustle" but Woo's a very talented and flexible guy. Don't believe me? Check out his mega-epic period film "Red Cliff," which was gorgeous to look at and amazingly constructed. Sadly, it seems like Woo's left Hollywood for good, but at least he's still making movies.

No comments: