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|Index||23 reviews in total|
29 out of 32 people found the following review useful:
Feng XiaoGang reaches for new height in his latest movie, 15 January 2005
Author: xiayun from United States
Feng has traditionally produced a movie each year close to the new
year, but the tone of his movie has grown darker and sadder. A World
without Thieves is another example of this progression.
The story is simple, but the characters have layers, and the dialog remains classic Feng-style as ever. All performances are good to great. The villain role is set up perfectly for Ge You. The production value is the most polished I've seen from a Feng's film. The camera work, the editing, and the music score all feel artistic and are mixed together quite well. As for his previous movie "Cellphone", there are a number of sad moments in the movie where your heart will be heavy. Overall, highly recommended. 8 out of 10.
10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Beautiful film, highly recommended, 15 September 2007
Author: pvernezze from China
World without Thieves (Tian Xia Wu Zei) is a film by director Feng Xiaogang. It involves a romantically involved pair of thieves. As the film begins they are extorting money from a rich man they have filmed trying to seduce the woman. Soon after this, the woman decides she has had enough of this kind of life and wants a normal existence. Her partner in crime, however, has no intention of quitting the business. She stops at a Buddhist temple to pray and there is befriended by a worker on the temple. The man, whose friends call him Dumbo, is returning home with his five years wages from working on the temple, 60, 000 RMB. Although his friends tell him to wire the money home and warn him about thieves he insists he is fine taking the money on the train with him and that they are too distrustful of people. In an attempt to prove to his friends that there are no thieves on the train, the young man has announces to the entire train that he has the money and that any thieves should show themselves. When they don't, Dumbo says, "see,there are no thieves here." On the train, he hooks up with the thieving couple, and the woman makes it her mission to try to protect the gullible young man from those who would steal the money, in particular from a gang of thieves on the train, and perhaps from her own partner. Like Bu Jian, Bu San, this film is not a light comedy, although it seems to start out as such. Instead, it is a serious and emotionally taxing film that can be alternatively thought provoking and hilarious, with the contrast between the gullibility of the young man and the sophistication of the world weary thieves providing the central moral focus Feng is a major Chinese writer/director. He traditionally releases movies around the Chinese New Year. A beautiful movie, highly recommended.
17 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
It is a good movie among the past few year's Holiday films, 10 January 2005
Author: jiaoniang from Dallas
Feng Xiaogang has made himself the fame of making good holiday films in
the past several years. Most of them achieved the purposes of making
laugh and making people a happy new year.
This one is the best one in that both in the filming and produce, it has more meaning and more depth. Well, it is still not an 'art' movie. It is still just targeted for box income.
The performance of actors and actresses is OK, not too much to exceed what they are usually doing. By maintaining their perform, this movie achieve the adequate balance between a good movie (usually a heavy one) and a laughter making movie.
The story is a made one for sure. A world without thieves has disappeared from 10 years ago. Now it is a world full of thieves. It might remind people in their 30s the good old days of China ...
10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Remarkable beyond adjectives, 27 March 2006
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I just saw A World Without Thieves at a film festival, and I loved it.
I had expected a more straight-forward Hong Kong production, but this
was more of a mainland China movie. We follow a male-female couple of
thieves, Bo and Li (both surnamed Wang, but apparently not married),
the woman of whom is trying to abandon her criminal lifestyle for the
sake of her unborn child's karma. So she decides to protect a naive
country bumpkin who's transporting his life's savings by train,
surrounded by people who want to rob him. As you can imagine, a plot
with this kind of stark, sacrificial emotion involved must be difficult
to turn into a successful piece of film-making. But this director pulls
The movie is grand and beautiful. The emotional intensity and depth conveyed by the actors repeatedly brought a tear to my eye. The characters themselves cry several times, and their pain is convincing. The really impressive thing is that the movie really blends several genres. It has a plot and characters which are usually played for laughs in light-hearted action comedies, yet here they are treated seriously. The action scenes are low-key in order not to detract from the more important emotional matter. And adding in the magnificent cinematography, the end product becomes an art movie.
For the cinematography of this movie is simply breathtaking. Landscapes and people are filmed with inspired visual flair. There are a few kung fu scenes in the movie (the most impressive of which is the peeling of a *raw* egg, without breaking the membrane), but they are done very untraditionally. The skirmishes are never really shown, except in brief, half-blurred flashes, mimicking pick-pocketing skills, where you practically can't see the moves. However, these scenes are accompanied by special music, and most certainly have an aesthetic all their own, contributing to making this movie unique. The director is trying to do something new and different with the kung fu scenes, and I think he succeeds. The focus of the movie is not on the fight scenes, but on the characters' emotions and the dazzling cinematography.
The end of the movie is also stunning. In order to honor his lover's wish, the male thief, who has no desire to reform, ends up getting himself killed in order to return the country bumpkin's money to him from a rival master thief. Now, you can focus on the return of the money, and find the moral of the movie naively romantic. Or you can focus on the heart-rending death of Bo, and be moved to tears by his sacrifice, which was for love of his partner, and not for the naive country bumpkin. I did the latter, and I believe the director was going for this reaction. This was not a naive movie about protecting an innocent soul from the unavoidable evils of the world; it was a character study focusing on two thieves who ended up disappearing from the world, one through reform, and one through self-sacrifice. It touched me deeply.
All told, a masterpiece that I can heartily recommend, and which I will certainly acquire for myself when I get the chance.
Ratingswise, I initially wondered if I should give it an 8 or a 9. But upon reflection of how perfectly put together this movie was, and what a great artistic accomplishment it is, and how the consideration of its themes and their resolutions continue to move me when I think back on the climactic scenes, I have to give it top marks. 10 out of 10.
12 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
What a good director can do with an actor, 12 January 2005
Author: Harry T. Yung (email@example.com) from Hong Kong
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Witness how Andy Lau comes across in two movies under two different
directors. In the Zhang Yimou's cheesy impersonation of an art film
House of Flying Daggers, poor Lau is reduced to almost laughing stock
in a hopelessly crafted and lifeless character. In Feng Xiaogang's A
World Without Thieves, Lau is given a proper opportunity to act, and he
responds with a creditable performance.
Not as well-known to the world at large as Zhang who has achieved fame through shameless succumbing to cheap melodrama, Feng is nevertheless the biggest name in China. Make no mistake about it, Feng's films ARE commercial. But, on top of the commercial elements, Feng retains his unique blend of style, humor and heart. On the other hand, while Zhang still rules when it comes to cinematography, a film does not live by cinematography alone.
And Feng does not suffer by that much even in that department. The opening shots of AWWT are simply breathtaking. The ensuring scene is equally impressive, with Wang Li (Rene Lau) praying in the open temple courtyard among the throng while partner Wang Bo (Andy Lau) engages in a duel of sorts with femme fatale (Li Bingbing). The rhythmic, rousing sound from the throng, the sincere penitence of prostrating Wang Li and the intimidating dexterity of the two dueling thieves blend together in a unique atmosphere created by Feng's ever attentive camera, bringing the audience right into the heart of the movie.
The plot is simple and essentially predictable, set in a familiar, slightly claustrophobic train journey, pitching thieves against thieves and against law enforcers, over certain potential loot. This however does not prevent the movie from offering the audience a bit of everything: jaw-dropping feats, suspense and tension, interesting characters, a love story, struggle between good and evil. What I like about it is that it is unpretentious. Wang Li's (and later Wang Bo's) penitence simply as result of her pregnancy comes across much better than pseudo philosophizing, for example, as in Running on Karma (which incidentally also stars Andy Lau).
The movie features an ultimate good guy character Fu Gen (Wang Boaqing) who, almost like an idiot, doggedly believe that there's no bad guy in this world (and hence the title). Wang plays it so well that even the most cynicism-stricken audience will find it difficult not to love him. Andy Lau, as mentioned, has given a solid performance, even when the character is somewhat stereotyped. Rene Lau, easily one of the best Chinese actresses around today, handles her part with ease. Watch for the last scene when she gulps down mouthfuls of food while a tear trickles down her cheek. And there is of course Ge You, sort of China's Lon Chaney, who appears in every one of Feng's films and never fails to give a delightful surprise every time.
In sum, an unpretentious, entertaining, commercial but high quality film.
7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
An engaging and beautiful crime romance, 17 November 2008
Author: MikeA from Isle of Man, British Isles
Professional thieves Bo (Andy Lau) and Li (Rene Liu) con a businessman
out of his BMW, and head for the hills to lay low. They visit a temple,
where Bo busies himself relieving pilgrims of their wallets and phones,
while Li earnestly prays. Shortly thereafter, she announces to her
lover that she wants them both to abandon their thieving lifestyle and
settle down. When he refuses, they argue and split.
On foot and hopelessly lost, Li encounters Sha Gen (Wang), a simple man who wants to find a wife and settle down with the money he's earned. He helps her find her way to a train station, where she's reunited with Bo.
Touched by Sha Gen's open honesty and trust in his fellow travellers, Li adopts him as her little brother, and decides to protect him and his money on their journey as an act of redemption. However, while Bo wants to get back together with Li, he has his eye on Sha Gen's moneybag. To make matters worse, a whole gang of thieves is on board the train, and they all wouldn't mind helping themselves to the easy cash. It's thief vs thief as the train rolls through gorgeous landscapes, and Li has her work cut out defending Fu from all sides, not least her unscrupulous lover.
I've only seen one of director Feng Xiaogang's movies before, 'Big Shot's Funeral', and will admit to not being blown away by that. This, however, is a very engaging and beautifully shot romantic crime comedy, and I enjoyed it immensely. The product placement that seems to have offended many viewers slipped by me, and the pro-communist message simply fits the character of Sha Gen and did not seem out of place. I certainly didn't feel anything getting forced down my throat.
Andy Lau manages to be a likable rogue, while Rene Liu plays her role with a lot of heart. Their on-screen chemistry is perfect.
There are a number of 'fight' scenes between the thieves, that put me in mind of the 'God of Gamblers' series of films. Instead of fighting with Mah Jong sticks or flinging cards at each other though, the thieves duel with razor blades as they try to poach from one other. These scenes are inventive and done with flair and just the right amount of CG trickery.
I did have a problem with the ending, which - while being necessarily melodramatic - seemed overly manipulative. To compensate for this, Rene Liu's acting at the conclusion should leave all but the hardest of hearts unmoved. I have to admit with some shame that this is the first film I've seen starring this astonishing actress. It will definitely not be the last.
5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Clickety clack., 14 September 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of those movies I'd heard a lot about, but never quite
found myself in the right place to see, until I finally managed to lay
my hands on a Hong Kong DVD.
Few things in movies irritate me like white subs against light backgrounds, especially when it's a widescreen DVD with acres of virgin darkness below the screen area, but in this case such gripes are largely irrelevant. The plot is neatly woven and each character is given enough time to establish their true intentions. Not being a Chinese speaker, I tend to watch the nuances of expression for glimpses of the subtler plot elements, and that usually helps me to fill in the gaps left by those unreadable subs.
Subjectively, this is a very mobile film, which gets moving in fine style with some beautiful travelogue style tracking shots of high mountain China, and a mildly incongruous "borrowed" top of the range Beamer. The brief hiatus before the train journey begins, allows us to glimpse the widening cracks in the happy couple's business relationship. The naivety of the young farmer they encounter is a useful counterpoint to Andy Lau's selfishness. And thus begins an exploration of honesty under duress.
I don't want to go into too much detail, but suffice it to say that there's some fun cgi trickery, some elegant grifting duets, and some nicely underplayed camp malevolence, all washed through with strangely hypnotic, slightly blurred cinematography and lighting. Very similar to the woozy feeling one gets after a few hours on a train.
This film covers its many bases with an elasticity that allows the viewer to figure it out in their own good time. The underlying atmosphere of quiet menace versus insouciant braggadaccio, centred around the naif's bundle of cash and his gentle zen philosophy, is perfectly played out to a subtle and suitably rhythmic score. Where a western film would brutally over-dramatise the scene on the roof of the train, here it's played so nonchalantly that one would almost assume it's an everyday occurrence.
As a modern take on an old fable, it works on every level. I enjoyed watching the onion being peeled away, layer by layer, to the point where it became pure fatalism. Honesty, dignity, bravery, and compassion. With added sleight of hand, and a pinch of sorrow and sadness. Well worth seeing.
11 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
This movie will help Chinese cinema break out into the west like never before., 31 October 2005
Author: monkey_magic_23 from United States
Visually stunning, emotionally charged, and intellectually moving! The cinematography of "World Without Thieves" is unmatched to any Chinese movie I've seen to date. The characters hold your interest, and the plot moves across the screen with brilliant unpredictability. Western fans who only know Andy Lau from "House of Flying Daggers" get to witness his versatility as an actor. The two female leads, Renee Liu and Bingbing Li, balance each other out wonderfully: one dangerous, the other caring. I love "non-Hollywood" endings, which is what we get here. This is a rare gem of a film that breaks out of the "Chinese Film" genre and into the "International Film" genre. A good introduction for the movie fan who has never seen a Chinese film. A must-see for any serious film fanatic.
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Minor Faults, but Overall a Great Film., 13 August 2007
Author: massaster760 from United States
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What do you get when you combine an idealistic country bumpkin, two
sets of professional thieves, and a long train ride (with more than
it's share of surprises along)? Well if it's awesomely directed, acted
and filmed, it's probably Feng Xiaogang's A World Without Thieves, a
slow paced but rewarding film.
In the opening, we meet a male and female couple who are professional thieves named Bo Wong (Andy Lau) and Li Wang (Rene Liu). After an argument about Li leaving the profession, Bo kicks her out of the car. Walking into town, Li meets a naive orphan named Dumbo(Baoqiang Wang) who happens to be carrying his life's saving of 60,000 dollars with him in his carry-on bag. Li and Fu quickly become friends, when Bo re-enters the story. The three decide to take a train ride where they meet another set of professional pickpockets. Dumbo soon finds himself in the middle of two set's of scheming thieves, his only protection is the sympathetic thief Li Wang. But is she enough to save the lamb from the wolves?
The film's first 20 minutes is actually the best shot and most emotionally affecting part of the film, it actually called to my mind the better works of Zhang Yimou. The opener also features some brilliant work by Photography Director Zhang Li. The shots of mainland China's mountains and are incredibly shot and framed. Unfortunately, after the characters enter the train, we loose the beautiful landscape shots. The film than turns into a war of thieves complete with (what I'll call) Pickpocket Kung Fu, a series of dangerous contests, double crossings, and all kinds of out-right deliciously scandalous behavior.
Although, shot a bit too-closely for my tastes, the action scenes are well-done, but they seem to be a bit out of pace with the film's beginning feel and overall themes. The competition scenes where actually much more satisfying than the film's martial arts. I wished the director would have featured more of the pickpocketing tricks and less of the razor-blade Kung Fu. Luckily, the sum of the whole is greater than it's parts and overall AWWT makes for one of the most satisfying films I've seen in years.
The characters also help make this film what it is. Andy Lau is excellent as the devious but likable Bo. Rene Liu is also great as the Yin to Bo's Yang. Her Character is played pretty straight forwardly but is convincing as the only real character in the film that could be called a decent person(other than Dumbo). Everyone plays holds their weight in the film, actually the only weak link-in terms of acting-is Baoqiang Wang as the naive countryman. His performance isn't bad but seems to be a bit over-done (is anybody really that innocent?).
On a inconsequential side note, I understand the concept of Andy Lau's need to disguise himself (being a wanted man and all). But why did the director feel the need to dress him in that horrible wig? I actually applauded and cheered approximately 70 minutes into the film when Bo looses his hairpiece in the wind.
Bottom Line- A World Without Thieves is an all around good time. It has it's share of minor faults but is overall a great film.
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A Nutshell Review: (DVD) A World Without Thieves (2004), 7 February 2008
Author: DICK STEEL from Singapore
A world without thieves is close to impossible, at least not in our
modern world where there are those who covert what others have, and
given no means of obtaining those items legitimately, seek the easier
way out and give in to temptation. But there are those who naively
think that such an utopia is possible, perhaps given their simple
background, and their trusting nature to not see the evils of man. Sha
Gen the Dumbo (Wang Baoqiang) is one such person, who declares and
openly challenges, on a crowded passenger platform to would-be (and to
himself, non existent) thieves, that he has RMB60K on him.
Andy Lau and Rene Liu play Wang Bo and Wang Li respectively, a Bonnie and Clyde styled couple whose profession is to profit from conning and thievery. They're skilled pickpockets, and in a scene set in a temple, we see what Wang Bo is capable of with his deft hands armed only with a thin razor. Things don't go down well for the couple as Wang Li decides to forgo the partnership and go legit, for fear of karmic retribution. As such, she takes it on herself to look after the kind hearted Dumbo, and what could Wang Bo do except to go along, even though he's secretly harbouring thoughts on that 60K cash package.
But like the adage of washing your hands in the golden basin, their will and skills are put to the test when Uncle Li (Ge You) and his band of merry thieves which include Lam Ka Tung as Four Eyes and Li Bingbing as Leaf, board the same train, and constantly poke and probe for opportunities to succeed in fleecing Dumbo like a helpless sheep when his guardian wolves are less than alert. It's a classic cat and mouse game, with each side displaying their fangs as they encircle their prey, with the prey none the wiser to the drawing of territorial lines.
It's not very often in recent times that you have a movie set for the most parts on board a train, and good ones at that, unless you pass the likes of Steven Seagal's Under Siege 2. The first Mission: Impossible movie had a great action sequence, Bollywood's Dil Se featured an awesome dance on the roof of a moving train, and The Darjeeling Limited and Before Sunrise had great conversations, but I'd dare say Feng Xiaogang bested them all with this movie. It's not difficult then to say that I've enjoyed this movie, having seen his Banquet and Assembly, both of which I had liked, and I guess his works are now on my watchlist.
But it's not all claustrophobic in having everything set on a train. There were ample opportunities for lush cinematography to accentuate the beautiful vast lands that China has, although at some points to allow for action sequences, some of them had to be superimposed instead. Don't let that mar your enjoyment though, as the effects were pretty much nicely done, on par with what you'd come to expect with movies made in Hollywood. But the characterization here takes priority as well in moving the story forward, especially with Andy Lau's character caught in the crossroads of listening to his heart, as well as figuring out the intentions behind the admiration from a grandmaster thief.
And Ge You, if you'd think his portrayal in the Banquet was one-dimensional, you should see him in action here, with his various disguises, and his silent charisma shining through, chewing up almost every scene he comes in. It's little wonder that he's a frequent feature in the films of Feng Xiaogang, and I look forward to his next with the director, starring opposite yet another Chinese thespian in Jiang Wen. Rene Liu had great chemistry with Andy Lau and thus made their couple character quite believable in their love for each other, as well as the conflict of ideals that they face which put a strain in their relationship.
The only gripe I have will be that some of the fleecing scenes were shot in too close up a manner, but it sort of emphasizes on the blink and you miss sensibilities that these crooks have to capitalize on in order to practice their trade. And that of course presents itself as a perfect opportunity to rewatch this wonderful movie again. Highly recommended!
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