32 user 25 critic

Once a Thief (1991)

Chung hang sei hoi (original title)
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.


John Woo
6 nominations. See more awards »




Credited cast:
Yun-Fat Chow ... Red Bean Puddin - Joe (as Chow Yun Fat)
Leslie Cheung ... James - Jim
Cherie Chung ... Red Bean - Cheri
Kong Chu ... Chu - Dad
Kenneth Tsang ... Chow - Father
David Wu ... Auctioneer
Fung Woo ... Mr. Cheung (as Wu Fung)
Pierre-Yves Burton Pierre-Yves Burton ... Mr. Le Bond (as Pierre Yves Burton)
Declan Wong Declan Wong ... Magician Henchman (as Declan Michael Wong)
Patrick Hon ... Hitman
Yat Kwun Tang 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 Kin-Shing Choi ... Guard


Once a Thief is an action/comedy/romance movie involving the plight of three master thieves (in the mode of Pink Panther). All three were raised by the same father and in fact were most certainly street orphans. The story begins with a successful art heist followed by a pledge to make this the last crime ever for the trio. The plot revolves around the theft of a mysterious "cursed" painting and how its obsession affects the family. Written by <sysop@hal9k.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

art | See All (1) »


They only stop to reload.


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

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 »


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 »

Alternate Versions

All German versions, including the TV-Version, are cut. See more »

User Reviews

Not a classic, but worth a look
5 June 2000 | by action-6See all my reviews

Once A Thief is the first collaboration between John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat after their hugely successful THE KILLER. The movie is about three art thieves that want to still just ONE more picture before they retire. As always it is rather predictable that something very dramatic will happen, but you`ll have to see the movie to find out exactly what. Once a Thief can be called a romantic violence-comedy. The actionscenes are nicely directed, but you won`t be blown away by them as by those in THE KILLER. I don`t like many of the jokes in Once A thief. I think most of them are rather corny and just plain stupid. This is a nice example, where a Hong-kongfilm is TOO weird for a Western audience to really appriciate. But I`m sure that Eastern fans will love it to bits, I didn`t. Worth a look though, and a million times better than the EXTREMELY POOR American re-make from 1996. 7,5/10

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Hong Kong


French | Cantonese | English | Hakka

Release Date:

2 February 1991 (Hong Kong) See more »

Also Known As:

Once a Thief See more »

Filming Locations:

Cannes, Alpes-Maritimes, France See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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