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

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8 out of 10 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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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

"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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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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Fun, thrilling and creative Canadian nineties show

Author: gasmaskproductionsbooks from Canada
17 April 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The premise of Once A Thief is simple enough to grasp: the misadventures of a trio of criminals working for justice, under the guise of an enigmatic director (known only as the Director), fighting mobsters, crooks and killers. This trio includes Li-Ann, Mac and Victor. Mac and Li-Ann have ties to a Hong Kong triad but wish to get out of the game. Vic was a cop who was set up by his corrupt colleagues. They are hired by a shadowy government agency in British Columbia, where they work alongside British hit-men for-hire Murphy and Camier, and Jackie, a gung-ho teenage mob boss.

Some people find this show too silly to take seriously, but it does have its many impressive moments, and to be fair, it was intended to be a comedy, anyway. And when it comes to characters, they all make you want to be a part of the adventures yourself. At first I wasn't a big fan of Jackie with her giggly cheerleader routine, but she's the type of character who grows on you as she begins to make further appearances in the series. The mysterious Director, unfazed in even the most dire situations (until her weird X-Files spoof episode) provides the main characters both a friend and a foe at times. Hands-down my favourite characters of the reoccurring cast though were Mr. Murphy and Mr. Camier, the agency's professional "cleaners", who, to use Camier's words, "clean the world of evil". At first they are merely contract killers who serve as their current episode's creepy villains, but as the series continues they turn out to not be so soulless after all, and they even team up with the agency on occasion. Camier also concedes to being in-love with Li-Ann, an idea that might have been explored further had the series continued past its twenty-three episodes. I could definitely imagine Murphy and Camier having their own spin-off show together. Of course, Once A Thief's vast collection of minor characters, from a cult of uranium-smuggling Goths to an Irish terrorist, give each episode a lot of material to work with and ideas to explore.

What I find sad is that Once A Thief had so much more potential, and yet it ended after only 23 episodes for whatever reason. Although it's way too late for its fans to ever hope for a revival of it (it was produced the year I was born for crying out loud), at least all 23 episodes were recently released in a DVD format. I've been binge-watching them all lately and they're hilarious, really a lot of fun.

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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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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Must see it

Author: leilagato from Portugal
10 July 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw this film some time a go, and I really enjoyed it. It has some problems with the plot, but do what it should which is entertain.I used to watch the series they made from the film and it was not bad at all, is even better than some that we (do not) have the pleasure to see on TV nowadays. Is not the best we get from John Woo:Face Off( this is the big one). The action sequences are really great, and the actors although almost unknown do their job properly and without any major ambitious. So now that is summer and you do not have anything to do at all see Once a thief, you will not loose anything, I assure you. The film starts with a dance contest really interesting, than things go bad to the family Tang(big family of thieves), Li Ann escapes and Mac his lover and adopted son of the family is arrested.18 months later a lady just called The director, reunites them and another man Vic now Li Ann's fianceé to fight bad people, now they are secret cops...although they are not very use to be on the right side of law... So it seems good stuff, and I just told almost all of the story but there is a lot more...want to find?

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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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