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"Once a Thief"
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Reviews & Ratings for
"Once a Thief" More at IMDbPro »

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

My kind of show!

Author: keenoled from Gothenburg, Sweden
14 May 2005

I love this series! Based on the trio antics of the movie by John Woo, this is a Canadian produced action comedy series. Li Ann and Mac try to get out of the Hong Kong Triad, Vic is set up by his dirty cop colleagues. Li Ann and Mac are separated, Mac ends up in jail, where he's approached by a slick high status woman with a proposal; come and work for her secret agency or rot in jail. Li Ann and Vic have gone the same route as Mac does, accepting the offer, and the three are put together as a team, with the woman, The Director, as a puppet master and boss. Cue adventures and intrigue.

It's a series driven by great actor chemistry, one-liners, timing, and the occasional hey-let's-do-martial-arts stuffing. My tastes exactly. A little cliché at first, perhaps, but some episodes are freakishly good. Ivan Sergei and Nick Lea work great together (how great? ask any slasher out there), Jennifer Dale is my GOD, the weird Agency that's always empty of people, camera and lighting, there's so much to love! And only one season's worth of episodes. *sobs*

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

A masterpiece of art!

Author: xanton159 ( from Canada
31 May 2003

John Woo's Once a Thief is one of the most interesting television which I have the pleasure of watching again and again. With a thick La Femme Nikita-like story-line and John Woo's unparalleled action scenes, Once a Thief is an action-comedy you do not want to miss.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:


Author: adi from Jerusalem, Israel
22 September 2002

On contrary to the previous comment, I think that this series is brilliant. It's fast, interesting and appealing. The writing is funny and cleverly bizarre... it is just simply clever. The action sequences are directed perfectly. But you don't have to be an action lover to be captured by John Woo's "Once A Thief", because it has so many more elements that make this show one of the best in television, and one I definitely recommend to TV lovers out there.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A refreshing and intelligent story...

Author: HiBudge
5 January 1999

Once a Thief focuses on the lives of three people, each with his/her own deep background, that unwillingly become secret agents and pawns of an almost maniacal woman - the director of a shaddowy government agency.

The movie is, in short, a work of art.

Both elements of seriousness and humor are portrayed seamlessly and stylishly. Each episode is an independent part of a large collection that, when complete, is a master piece.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Funny; campy!

Author: sarastro7
6 December 2006

I used to watch this show on TV back in the late '90s, and I have to say I didn't remember much else than cute Sandrine Holt. I've tried to watch whatever I can get hold of starring Ms. Holt (and yeah, I have Rapa Nui, thanks for asking!), but it seems that the only way to get a regular dose of her is to watch Once A Thief. So I recently bought two DVDs, each containing two episodes of the show (ep. 11 and 12, and the two final episodes) - and the quality of the series surprised me. It was not only much better than I remember, but also much better than I dared expect.

It's a comedy show, more than anything else. It's filled with funny details and outrageous characters, and yes, hilarious one-liners ("You got friends? Get rid of 'em!"). For instance, apart from dignified Sandrine, just about every woman on the show is a total nympho. I know, it's sexist and chauvinist and gratuitous (and thus won't be for everyone), but for the less squeamish it's also damn entertaining. Episodes 11 and 12 introduce Victoria Pratt, and she... I mean, get a load of her thigh muscles, for Christ's sake! I'm at a loss for words here. If you like buffed-up, super-athletic women, she is HOT. And she becomes a regular. These guys know how to put together a show!! Too bad the show didn't last longer, and too bad it doesn't seem to be completely out on DVD. Somebody better remedy that, and soon. This is campy cult material par excellence!

8 out of 10.

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"Once A Thief" - brief but brilliant television series

Author: Noirdame79 from Canada
30 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I remember this show when it initially aired on CTV in Canada. I took an immediate liking to it and was extremely disappointed that it was cancelled after one season. The episodes were well-written and performed and came off very well despite the low-budget. Even better that it was filmed and set in Vancouver.

John Woo directed the two-hour movie that served as the pilot for the series. I won't rehash the plot too much but the love triangle between the three leads is both amusing and touching. By the last four episodes it becomes clear which man Li Ann Tsei (Sandrine Holt) belongs with, which unfortunately due to the series cancellation was not explored further, but if you watch it from the beginning you'll have it figured out. Holt has great chemistry with both her leading men, Ivan Sergei (as Mac Ramsey) and Nicholas Lea (as Victor Mansfield), who of course, also had a prominent recurring role on the hit TV series "The X-Files". Rounding out the main cast is Jennifer Dale, who plays "The Director" of the agency that the trio works for. In the latter part of the season, Vicky Pratt became a semi-regular as a former mob queen who is eager to be "reformed" (cough). Canadian viewers will also get a kick out the guest stars, which include Colin Mochrie, Ron Lea, Pat Mastroianni and Katherine Greenwood, just to name a few. Michael Wong is also a standout in his appearances.

While each disc starts with an advisory about condition of the source material, for the most part the picture is very good, with only minor issues here and there. The show has aged quite well, and the music and wardrobe is just another reason to love it. As another reviewer pointed out, the writers did some clever spoofs of "The X-Files", "The Maltese Falcon" and the "James Bond" series of films. Humor, action, romance and drama abound. The only special feature is an alternate ending, which was evidently used when the show later aired in the US. I wasn't aware that there was an alternate ending until recently, and it's a good option for those who didn't like the way the series ended.

The only thing that is jarring is that the 17th episode, "Little Sister" was obviously shot earlier in the season; key factors give this away, and that makes the continuity a bit confusing. Why the episode aired so late is anybody's guess.

On the whole, I was pleased to be able to watch this again, and even catch up on the few episodes that I missed. While "Once A Thief" had a brief life on television, the show lives on in the hearts of its fans.

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A fun movie with some interesting themes

Author: david-sarkies from Australia
18 October 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie is much more jovial than John Woo's other movies. There characters seem to be much more light hearted towards each other. The entire atmosphere of this movie is more light hearted; the theme music being the most obvious. Though this movie does begin in Hong Kong, it plays out in Vancouver (Canada) and thus has a more American outlook to it, and though it was directed by John Woo, it was not written by him so some differences can be seen.

This movie is about three guys who are all in love with the same girl. One of them is the son of a Hong Kong crime lord, the other is the adopted son who fled the underworld and has become an undercover agent, and the third is a cop. This plot is what the movie revolves around and thus makes it a little different to the typical cops and robbers type movie.

This movie is sort of about salvation and redemption. The themes are not strong but there are some interesting aspects. I guess the main aspect is how two of the characters come to realise that crime is not as fun as they thought it was when one is assigned to be in charge of gun running and the other is forced to marry somebody she doesn't love. It begins with the three breaking into a high security building but soon two of them come to see that what was fun is not fun any more. This can in a way be translated to sin, how sin seems to be fun at the start but in the end it is not; it hurts not only other people but oneself as well. This idea is not too strong though.

Once again there is little distinction between the good guys and the bad guys. The good guys seem to have a real bad attitude towards each other, and one of them just continues to refuse to cooperate. The bad guys seem to be more noble, but we know that they are bad. All three guys are torn apart by jealousy for the same girl, and thus they come to seem to be the same.

There is a little bit on redemption as well. When one of the characters is sitting in gaol, he is given a choice, he can either work for the agency or he can go free. He is a little sceptical but he knows that going free means death anyway. This agency has come to him and given him a chance to escape the situation he is in, and even though he resists it he knows that without it he will be dead, not because the agency will kill him but because others will. The boss of the agency comes across as a God-like figure. She is not God and I don't think she is supposed to be God but there are allusions there. She does rescue the man and she does give him a choice: follow her or go your own way and die. God does that as well. We either follow him and serve him and thus he is master of our lives, or we go our own way, become master of our own destiny, and thus die and face his wrath. The characters always have the option of leaving, as do we, and the characters know what leaving means. We do to but unlike the characters, we chose to leave and thus die.

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Stylish and fun

Author: thebishop74 from Australia
11 February 2002

I was surprised by this program, it turned up late night here and I found myself staying up late to watch it, and I'm glad I did.

The acting is ok, and in general it is a very slick show, with plenty happening to keep you interested, and of course with John Woo producing it you know the action is always going to be great.

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6 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Don't Bother

Author: rudyardk from Canada
21 August 1999

A sad case of a series being created to cash in on a name. John Woo had very little to do with "John Woo's Once A Thief"; he certainly didn't direct any of the episodes. Consequently, the action sequences one might expect from a John Woo project were lacking -- which is actually no surprise considering the constraints of a television shooting schedule. However, it was the writing of the show that was the real villain. Viewers got treated to the worst features of lowbrow action flicks (shallow characters, absurd dialogue, implausible situations, leaden pacing), and none of the compensatory strengths (a sense of humour about it all).

Towards the end of the series, the writing got a little better, and a couple of episodes were almost passably entertaining in a campy sort of way. But it was too little, too late, and the series mercifully came to an end after 22 episodes.

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Marred by odd camera work.

Author: lois-lane33 from Montreal
11 June 2015

Seemingly based on an earlier American TV show called "It Takes A Thief" that ran in the late 1960's starring Robert Wagner-this shows premise is different and plays more like a weirded out version of the British show "The Avengers." This show also uses a lot of odd camera angles and darkened shots. The plot lines vary a lot from good to just out and out wacky. I think too many mediocre scripts was a thing that worked against the show being renewed for another season. Shot in Vancouver BC-but you never really felt like it was shot in Canada somehow. Many Canadian shows these days don't show a lot of whats really in Canada-like they never ever show rickshaw drivers when filming something in Toronto-and you never hear mention of anything First Nations on most Canadian drama shows these days even though First Nations are a very visible part of the population in much of Canada. I think this show had too many shortcomings-in fact I think many Canadian TV shows are often too much of "lets play pretend" as if Canada had nothing to offer when it does have things to offer-but it also has some fairly morally ambiguous things-like rickshaw's which are basically the very definition of arduous slave labor. In an era that disapproves of slavery. Also Odd: the Canadian CBC will not not put out the once popular Canadian TV show "The Beachcombers" onto DVD. I find that completely weird-like someone today doesn't want anyone First Nations depicted as a normal part of a Canadian community- since when did Canada turn back the clock to 1865? Jennifer Dale's character on this show seems to continued on into the show Nikita that started in 1997 after this show ended.

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