The film follows a group of criminals who regularly boost artifacts from the rich, and the opening is a standout. A beautiful young woman (Gianna Jun) introduces her mother (Kim Hae-suk) to her boyfriend of five months, but when they leave the room, the daughter strips down to a bodysuit and reveals herself as a building-hopping daredevil. As she ziplines from building to building, a breathtaking stunt, her fake mother proceeds to trouble this would-be gentleman with nosy questions, the better to make him squirm and distract him from the job. Executed nearly to perfection, all parties eventually scramble to get away with a major reward right before the opening credits. Like this heist, the film is similarly low-frills.
Structurally, the picture becomes less like “The Italian Job” and more like “Takers,” though it’s refreshing to see this action shot with the beautiful clarity from bigger budgeted Asian filmmakers, where a premium is placed on long, carefully choreographed takes of aggressive action. While the story takes a turn for the dark, Choi Dong-Hoon keeps the action light and exciting, and a finale that involves various all-terrain chases is a delight for how quickly it shifts gears and provides a variety of angles and beats.
It’s with this tone that the film fails to convince as far as half-remembered, and ludicrously heated love affairs. There are so many characters to follow, and the main cast is such a treat, that by the time the peripheral marks are made to look like fools, you’ve begun to question the emotional reality of the film. It’s unfortunate -- “The Thieves” otherwise has a crackerjack b-movie pace, and a satisfying multi-tiered ending that wraps up all loose ends with the nefarious twists native to the genre. You may have seen it all before, but there’s a lot of “it all” to parse through in this effervescent heist actioner, a pleasurable romp with a savvy b-movie intelligence. [B]