Choi Dong-Hoon’s 2012 smash hit The Thieves is a delightful action-comedy that reminds us just all how good the classics can be. Witty and sharp while hitting all the right notes, The Thieves is the perfect film to while away a dark winter evening at the cinema. 

Courtesy of LKFF

In this Ocean’s style crime film, a highly skilled group of oddballs combine their unique talents to threaten Asia’s most prized treasures, with jobs ranging from stealing art to robbing millions of dollars worth of diamonds. Within our ragtag group, we find Yenicall (Jun Ji-hyun), the sexy yet deadly femme fatale; Chewingum (Kim Hae-sook), a grumpy, slightly drunk and highly sarcastic elderly woman; Zampano (Kim Soo-hyun), the dashing Chinese- Korean with a major crush on his teammate; Pepsee (Kim Hye-su), recently released from prison; and last but not least, Popie (Lee Jung-jae), the embittered gang leader desperate to make a name for himself.

When an old friend of Popie’s reaches out with word of a job to change their lives, the gang can’t let the opportunity go past – even despite their reservations about their contact, the mysterious and historically duplicitous Macao Park (Kim Yoon-seok). Paired with Park’s chosen team of Chinese counterparts, they must keep their eyes on the prize and watch their backs.

Courtesy of LKFF

From the start, things don’t run smoothly; both teams are highly suspicious of each other and disinclined to trust a bunch of foreigners. Jokes about plastic surgery and inexperience soon escalate to weapons being drawn, leaving the audience in little doubt of just how bad an idea this whole thing is. But when a diamond worth $30 million is at stake, even enemies can endure each other’s company. At least for a bit. When the diamond is finally in their hands? Well, that’s a different story.

This heist is a laugh-out-loud sensation. Fast-paced, well-written, superbly acted, easy to follow, and with characters you cannot help but root for. No one can resist being sucked into this riot of fun, and with twists and turns scattered throughout, it’s sure to be a rollercoaster viewing. Every character has a unique personality and delightfully fleshed-out backstory, leaving the audience with plenty of likeable characters to cheer on. In the end, the only hard part is picking which side to stand on. Korean or Chinese? But with a cast like this, neither is a wrong choice!

Courtesy of LKFF

The Thieves is the kind of film you can switch on and fall into with little effort. It’s easy to watch and easy to enjoy, with all the old cliches we love to see in an action film. Car chases, death-defying stunts and spine-tingling romance can all be found in this box office hit.

Yet beyond the writing and directing, one of the film’s greatest strengths is the casting and the incredible chemistry they all share. In particular, the relationship between Jun Ji-hyun and Kim Soo-hyun, who play young friends who hint at being lovers, and between Kim Hae-sook and Simon Yam, who pair romance and comedy perfectly in their more mature relationship, are captivating.

The Thieves is that rare thing in cinema: a trifecta of excellent writing, casting and directing, and what a treat that the result is on our screen! Let’s hope the future holds plenty more films of this calibre.

The Thieves is screening at the London Korean Film Festival on November 4th. The 17th London Korean Film Festival 2022 runs from 3rd November – 17th November in cinemas across London. For more info: