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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Up 41% 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 »
4 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
Typical Hong Kong action comedy 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  (as 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?

The time elapsed between the first day of shooting and the first public screening of the finished film was ten weeks.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 »
Red Bean Pudding:I've told you so many times. Don't just use D gear. Sometimes use 1st gear, or 2nd gear. I say brake, you don't. I say step on it, you don't. I say ease off the pedal, you don't. You're so stupid!See more »
Movie Connections:
References The Last Song (1980) (TV)See more »


This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.
Typical Hong Kong action comedy, 17 November 2011
Author: JoeytheBrit from

Chow Yun Fat's one of a trio of art thieves who grew up together on the city streets. Bought up by a harsh criminal mentor, they find kindness from the local bobby. As adults they pull off seemingly impossible heists, but find themselves double-crossed by their mentor and determine to get revenge.

This is a typical Hong Kong action-comedy – although perhaps not the kind of typical John Woo film we're used to in the West. When it focuses exclusively on action set-pieces it's pretty spectacular; when combining action with comedy it's fitfully successful, but when trying to be funny in its own right it's a complete stinker. The storyline would never get green-lighted in the States, but it's entertaining enough. It might have been even more enjoyable had anyone bothered to write half-way decent subtitles, but as usual we get the kind of stuff a twelve-year-old would write.

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Recent Posts (updated daily)User
Funniest part ryannaughton1138-1
50x better on second viewing capt_rhodes
Opening music? Leaflucy
Once A Thief 2? jagfx
Would that flaming basketball trick work in real life? anorsworthy
C/TS DVD on clearance at Deep Discount -- $5.98 EdCurtis
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