Comparisons to such ensemble capers as "Ocean's Eleven" or "Tower Heist" are inevitable, but South Korea's "The Thieves" carves its own niche with moments of romance and stylish mayhem mixed with a more emotionally conflicted, winner-take-all sensibility than its American brethren.
Director Dong-hoo Choi ("The Big Swindle"), who co-wrote the sometimes overly complex script with Gi-cheol Lee, begins by jauntily setting up the potential theft of a $30 million diamond from a Macau casino vault by an intrepid band of high-end crooks, each, of course, with a burgling specialty.
But instead of all roads leading to the final jewel theft, the film shifts midway into decidedly darker cat-and-mouse territory as the diamond is located, allegiances splinter and the cops force the robbers into survival mode.
While the movie's second half feels more consequential — and more impressively action-packed — than its first part, it also loses some of its initial charm and quirk via a protracted, often dizzying descent into a kind of booty-centric game of hot potato.
Already a blockbuster on its native turf, Choi's slickly made diversion, shot in Seoul and Busan, South Korea; Hong Kong; and Macau, features a cast of Asian superstars including Gianna Jun, Hae-sook Kim, Yun-seok Kim and Jung-jae Lee, all of whom prove game and lively participants.
"The Thieves." No MPAA rating; in Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese and English with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours, 16 minutes. At the CGV Cinemas, Los Angeles; AMC's Atlantic Times Square 14, Monterey Park.