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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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:
Breezy caper with intrusive comedy asides 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
Wah Sang 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 "Jeopardy!: Episode #22.65" (2005)See more »


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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful.
Breezy caper with intrusive comedy asides, 26 January 2005
Author: Libretio

ONCE A THIEF (Zong Heng Si Hai)

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Mono

Three professional thieves (Chow Yun-fat, Leslie Cheung and Cherie Chung) steal a valuable painting coveted by their villainous mentor (Kenneth Tsang), leading to violent retribution.

John Woo redeemed the commercial failure of his masterpiece BULLET IN THE HEAD (1990) with this breezy comedy-caper, designed to restore his directorial fortunes at home and abroad. Originally conceived as a dark-hearted tragedy, Woo and co-screenwriter Clifton Ko (FOREVER YOURS) re-tooled the project for a Chinese New Year release, allowing the director to indulge his fondness for French New Wave cinema by setting much of the narrative within continental Europe, toplined by some of HK's biggest - and most iconic - movie stars. Chow overplays his role as an experienced jewel thief who alienates his loved ones by refusing to take life seriously, while Cheung and Chung are sympathetic and beautiful as his trusted sidekicks (the scene in which they dance the tango at a swank party is one of the highlights of their respective careers). Typically of Woo, the action scenes are fluid, dynamic and endlessly inventive, photographed with glossy precision by world-class cinematographer Poon Hang-sang (SHANGHAI GRAND). Planned and executed within a three month period (!), the movie overcomes its rough edges and jarring comic interludes (get a load of that final scene!) to emerge as an irresistible blend of big stars, fancy glamour and creative set-pieces. Woo returned to the story in 1996 for a Canadian TV movie (using the same title) which was dismissed by fans and general audiences alike, and quickly disappeared. Stick with the original.

(Cantonese dialogue)

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50x better on second viewing capt_rhodes
Opening music? Leaflucy
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