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Once a Thief (1991)
"Zong heng si hai" (original title)

 -  Action | Comedy | Crime  -  14 January 1994 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 3,883 users  
Reviews: 25 user | 22 critic

A romantic and action packed story of three best friends, a group of high end art thieves, who come into trouble when a love-triangle forms between them.


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Credited cast:
Red Bean Pudding (Joe) (as Chow Yun Fat)
Leslie Cheung ...
James (Jim)
Cherie Chung ...
Kong Chu ...
Chu / Godfather
Chow / Dad
Fung Woo ...
(as Fung Wu)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Cheung-Tak Hung ...
Chow's henchman
Leila Tong ...
Declan Wong ...
Magician Henchman


Stylish caper thriller stars Chow Yun-Fat, Leslie Cheung and Cheri Chung as a trio of international art thieves. Shot primarily throughout Europe, this Woo film is a romantic and exciting change of pace for Woo. Written by Towne 3, San Jose, Ca

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

art | thief | painting | gun fu | kung fu | See more »


They only stop to reload.


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| | |

Release Date:

14 January 1994 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Once a Thief  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


John Woo chose to do this film because he wanted to do something more light-hearted after _xue shuang xiong, Die (1989)_ (The Killer) and Bullet in the Head (1990) (Bullet In The Head) (which flopped in Hong Kong on their initial releases). The strategy seems to have paid off; the movie was successful in Hong Kong and allowed Woo to get funding for his next movie, _Lashou shentan (1992)_. See more »


When Joe and Cherie are driving behind the truck, that is transporting the paintings (including their marked one), you can clearly see the rope holding the car of Joe and Cherie close to the truck during the stunt scene. See more »


Red Bean: I want to live somewhere peaceful, that isn't at war.
Red Bean Pudding: Iraq? There's no war in Iraq. Or go to heaven, they have clean air!
See more »


References Casablanca (1942) See more »

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User Reviews

Lighter than you may think
16 September 2010 | by (Denmark) – See all my reviews

This is about three international thieves, who've known each other since childhood. Their father was a very unpleasant man who beat them, but they since found a good-hearted cop(well, he found them... with loot) who took them in. You'll know right from when you first hear the silly theme tune that this isn't as serious as other of Woo's films. He brings his trademark style and action(slow-motion shoot-outs and chases, some of them vehicular) to this, albeit there's less of the latter(it can be pretty exciting, though), and neither look as great as they do in other of his movies. It honestly comes off kind of cheaply produced, the way it's filmed(meanwhile, editing is sharp). With that said, it does go for plenty of gags(a few of them quite creative and memorable), and it isn't phoned in. This has a couple of cool heists. The humor is very goofy, campy and playful, and I personally found next to none of it funny. Maybe it's on account of cultural differences, but at times I really didn't understand the characters' actions, and this also seemed to take massive leaps in the tone. I didn't see much consequence to most of what happened in this. The version I watched was evidently dubbed, if only a little of it was to English. Chow Yun Fat is awesome, if this did have me cringing at the majority of what was said and done(when not involving guns, at least). There is a bit of disturbing content and mild to moderate violence in this. The DVD comes with several trailers for similar films. I recommend this to fans of Chinese comedy and to an extent, of the director. 7/10

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