Once a Thief (1991 film)

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For other uses, see Once a Thief (disambiguation).
Once a Thief
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Woo
Produced by Terence Chang
Linda Kuk
Written by John Woo
Janet Chun
Clifton Ko
Starring Chow Yun-fat
Leslie Cheung
Cherie Chung
Kenneth Tsang
Music by Lam Man-yee
Cinematography Poon Hang-sang
William Yim
Edited by David Wu
Distributed by Golden Princess Film Production Limited
Release date(s) Hong Kong:
2 February 1991
14 January 1994
Running time 103 min.
Country Hong Kong
Language Cantonese

Once a Thief[1] is a 1991 Hong Kong crime film written and directed by John Woo, starring Chow Yun-fat, Leslie Cheung, Cherie Chung, Kenneth Tsang and Chu Kong. The film was released in the Hong Kong on 2 February 1991.

Although the action sequences are quite faithful to Woo's typical choreography, comic relief and the general mood distinguish it from his grittier works, such as his previous film, Bullet in the Head (1990). Fans of the bloodier John Woo movies may find the bizarre mix of Stephen Chow-like mo lei tau rather confusing. Nonetheless, Woo's endeavor to make something lighter amidst his series of heroic bloodshed films translated to somewhat of a box office success in Hong Kong.


The story is of three orphans (Chow Yun-fat, Leslie Cheung, Cherie Chung) and their two father figures (Kenneth Tsang and Chu Kong). They are taken in by both a wealthy crime boss (Tsang) which leads to their close friendship, and a kind police officer (Chu). Nevertheless, the trio grows up learning high-tech methods of theft and specialize in stealing treasured paintings. After a heist in France goes awry, Chow's character is thought to be dead and Leslie takes Chow's place as Cherie's lover. However, Chow returns in a wheelchair and the group begins planning their next heist for themselves, fall out of favor with Tsang, and various complications and gun battles ensue.


Box office[edit]

The film grossed $33,397,149 HKD in Hong Kong.

See also[edit]

DVD release[edit]

On 10 January 2005, a DVD was released by Hong Kong Legends in the United Kingdom.

Eight months later, on 5 September 2005 The "John Woo Collection" was released; a 4 disc DVD set, also including the two action films Bullet in the Head and The Killer.


  1. ^ Chinese: 縱橫四海; pinyin: Zong heng si hai; Literal Title: Criss-Cross Over Four Seas.

External links[edit]