IMDb > Once a Thief (1991)
Zong heng si hai
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Once a Thief (1991) More at IMDbPro »Zong heng si hai (original title)

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Down 24% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
John Woo (screenplay)
John Woo (story)
View company contact information for Once a Thief on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
2 February 1991 (Hong Kong) See more »
They only stop to reload.
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. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
4 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
Mr Woo takes a break from his usual. See more (25 total) »


  (in credits order)

Yun-Fat Chow ... Red Bean Pudding (Joe) (as Chow Yun Fat)
Leslie Cheung ... James (Jim)
Cherie Chung ... Red Bean (Cherie)
Kong Chu ... Chu (Dad)

Kenneth Tsang ... Chow (Father)
David Wu ... Auctioneer
Fung Woo ... Mr. Cheung (as Wu Fung)
Pierre-Yves Burton ... Mr. Le Bond (as Pierre Yves Burton)
Declan Wong ... Magician Henchman (as Declan Michael Wong)
Patrick Hon ... Hitman
Yat Kwun Tang ... Young Red Bean Pudding (Young Joe)
Ka Fai Tong ... Young James (Young Jim)
Leila Tong ... Young Red Bean (Young Cherie) (as Lina Kong)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Kin-Shing Choi ... Guard
Simon Broad ... Red Bean Pudding (Joe) (voice) (uncredited)
Cheung-Tak Hung ... Chow's henchman (uncredited)

John Woo ... Stanley Wu (uncredited)

Directed by
John Woo 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Janet Chun 
Clifton Ko 
John Woo  screenplay
John Woo  story

Produced by
Terence Chang .... producer
Amy Chin .... associate producer
Linda Kuk .... producer
Original Music by
Man Yee Lam  (as Violet Lam)
Cinematography by
Hang-Sang Poon 
William Yim 
Film Editing by
David Wu 
Production Design by
Fanny Leung 
Art Direction by
James Leung 
Costume Design by
Shirley Chan 
Production Management
Daniel Baschieri .... unit manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Catherine Joubé .... first assistant director: second unit
Patrick Leung .... assistant director
Sylvia Liu .... second assistant director
Chung-Kan Tang .... assistant director
Art Department
Catherine Leighton .... assistant property master
Hsi-jen Yang .... props
Shi Cheng Yang .... property master (as Sai-ching Yeung)
Special Effects by
Bruce Law .... special effects supevisor: Hong Kong
Jim Dunn .... stunt performer
Jim Dunn .... stunts
Max Garnier .... stunt driver
Rémy Julienne .... car stunts
Philip Kwok .... action coordinator (as Chin-feng Kwok)
Bruce Law .... car stunt coordinator: Hong Kong
Bruce Law .... stunt coordinator: fire sequences and body burns: Hong Kong
Bruce Law .... stunts
Camera and Electrical Department
Pui-Chi Lam .... electrician
Gam-Fai Lee .... electrician
Wing Lok Lee .... assistant camera
Lin Yau Tsou .... assistant camera
Wai-Keung Tung .... lighting technician
Editorial Department
Chan-Kuen Pang .... assistant editor
Other crew
Patrick Boshart .... location scout
Heung-Yeung Tsim .... script supervisor

Production CompaniesDistributorsSpecial EffectsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Zong heng si hai" - Hong Kong (original title)
"Letters to Wolves" - Japan (English title) (imdb display title)
See more »
103 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

Jay Chattaway's music from Red Scorpion (1988) is used in the film.See more »
Crew or equipment visible: 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 »
James:We're always travelling. We should look for somewhere to call home.
Red Bean Pudding:Brother James, don't say things like that.
[quotes a famous chinese saying]
Red Bean Pudding:There are very old mountains and rivers, heroes don't seek a place to rest, people won't always be dancing on stage, and trends will be blown away by the wind and rain.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in The Big Hit (1998)See more »


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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful.
Mr Woo takes a break from his usual., 19 August 2002
Author: Josh Fowler from Sheffield

This film is in a different vein to John Woo's other films, the body count is lower than in any other of his heroic bloodshed movies. He uses martial arts more than in any other, and the infinitely charismatic Chow Yun Fat, played his role more like Benny Hill than clint Eastwood(Although Mr Chow, versatile as he is can play comedy just as well as his silent assassin, or the take no prisoners cop.) The departure from the standard Woo, high bodycount, 2 hour long shoot out type of film come from the fact that he had just made his two darkest films "The Killer" and "Bullet in the head". "At that time the world thought I was a very pessimistic guy" said Woo "but I just wanted to show to the world that I was actually an optimisic guy. I always think there's hope and beauty in the world" hence this light hearted film, in the style of an old heist movie. The plot centers around three highly skilled are thieves played by Chow Yun Fat, Cherie Chung and Leslie Cheung, involved in a love triangle. Although not as developed as "a better tomorrow", as beautifully cinematic as "The Killer" or as "brutally high octane as "a better tomorrow 2" and the fantastic "Hard boiled". This piece delivers, and is still miles better than anything that could come out of Hollywood. (with the possible exception of John Woo's american projects) If you know you would like this film go and buy it. I did, and although I paid a ridiculouly high price for it, I knew that Woo and Chow would not dissapoint, so it was money well spent.

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50x better on second viewing capt_rhodes
Opening music? Leaflucy
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C/TS DVD on clearance at Deep Discount -- $5.98 EdCurtis
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