The Thieves

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The Thieves
Revised Romanization Dodukdeul
McCune–Reischauer Todukdŭl
Directed by Choi Dong-hoon
Produced by Ahn Soo-hyun
Written by Choi Dong-hoon
Lee Ki-cheol
Starring Kim Yoon-seok
Lee Jung-jae
Kim Hye-soo
Jeon Ji-hyun
Music by Jang Yeong-gyoo
Cinematography Choi Yeong-hwan
Edited by Shin Min-kyeong
Distributed by Showbox/Mediaplex
Release dates
  • July 25, 2012 (2012-07-25)[1]
Running time 136 minutes
Country South Korea
Language Korean
Budget ₩15.2 billion (14.1 million USD)
Box office $83,519,699[2]

The Thieves (Hangul: 도둑들; RR: Dodukdeul; MR: Todukdŭl) is a 2012 South Korean heist film directed by Choi Dong-hoon with an all-star ensemble cast.[3][4][5][6]

Splashy action in overseas locations is mixed with double-dealings and multiple betrayals as a gang of South Korean thieves team up with a Hong Kong crew to steal a diamond necklace from a heavily guarded casino safe in Macau.[7]

With over 12.9 million ticket sales, the action comedy is currently the third highest grossing movie in Korean film history.


Posing as mother and daughter, two professional thieves — middle-aged Chewing Gum (Kim Hae-sook) and young cat burglar Yenicall (Jeon Ji-hyun) — rob the wealthy owner of Leesung Gallery (Shin Ha-kyun) of a rare artifact he bought from notorious Chinese fence Wei Hong (Ki Gook-seo). The theft is organized by team leader Popie (Lee Jung-jae), helped by his associate Zampano (Kim Soo-hyun). The next day they are visited by a police detective (Ju Jin-mo) who is hot on Popie's trail. Meanwhile in Hong Kong, Chinese veteran thief Chen (Simon Yam), along with Jonny (Derek Tsang) and Korean-Chinese Andrew (Oh Dal-soo), are robbing a jewelry shop. Afterwards, they are joined by Julie (Angelica Lee), the daughter of a professional safecracker.

To escape the heat at home, the Koreans join Chen's gang in Hong Kong for a heist led by South Korean master thief Macao Park (Kim Yoon-seok), who was once Popie's boss. Park's plan is to steal the Tear of the Sun diamond, worth US$20 million, which was stolen during an exhibition in Tokyo and is now in the possession of Madame Tiffany (Yeh Soo-jung), the Japanese mistress of Wei Hong, who is coming to Macau to visit a casino. Popie has brought along safecracker Pepsee (Kim Hye-soo), just released on parole, but Park is unhappy with her joining the team, as they once had a relationship that ended badly four years earlier. Park intends to sell the diamond back to Wei Hong for US$20 million — a risky venture as Wei Hong, whose face has rarely been seen, is known for murdering anyone who crosses him.

Each of the thieves has a separate agenda and, when the robbery finally takes place in Macau, little goes according to plan.[8][9][10]



Casting negotiations began since late 2010,[29] and on March 21, 2011, film distributor Showbox confirmed the star-studded cast in a press release. Director Choi Dong-hoon was quoted: "These are the very actors that inspired me to write what I have for the movie's script starting from its first line. I'm dreaming of creating explosive ensembles that will clash or harmonize within a single movie due to their different styles."[30] Choi later confessed that the thought of directing this group of high-profile actors and actresses was "really scary", but "during filming, I couldn't take my eyes off the monitor because of the charisma of all these actors. Never did it occur to me that they needed to be handled in a certain way. It's just that the screenplay must be fully understood... We talk. Slowly infect them with my thoughts, mixing the individual with the movie's tone and manner."[5][6][31][32]

Calling Choi "a genius who also works extremely hard," actress Kim Hye-soo was in awe when she first read the script, saying, "It was a product of great effort, genius ideas and a detail-oriented, calculative mind. I think he knows who he is, the exact kind of films that he wants to make, and how to make them. The Thieves proves it."[33]

On comparisons with Ocean's Eleven, the director said he never went into production consciously thinking about the hit Hollywood film. Though similar to it, he thinks The Thieves is actually closer to his previous films The Big Swindle and Tazza: The High Rollers, with the action featured "invested with more emotion." Kim Yoon-seok added that contrary to the characters' compatible and harmonious collaboration in Ocean's Eleven, "In The Thieves, we are all over the place, all with our own faults. But I think that you will see through the friendships and love in the film, our unique emotional developments will show through."[6][34]

After six months of location shoots in Seoul, Busan,[35] Macau,[36] and Hong Kong, filming wrapped up on December 7, 2011.[37][38][39]

Box office[edit]

With 436,622 tickets sold on the day of its release, The Thieves recorded the second highest single day opening of all time in Korea after The Host opened with 449,500 tickets sold in 2006.[40] On its sixth day of release, it broke the 3 million mark in audience number, drawing 3.35 million viewers. [41][42][43] In eight days, the numbers had risen to 4,365,078 tickets,[44][45] by the eleventh day, it drew 6.2 million viewers,[46][47][48] by the thirteenth day, 7 million,[49][50] and over 8 million by the sixteenth day.[51][52][53]

After 22 days, it reached the "magic number" of 10 million viewers, only the sixth film to have done so in Korean film history.[54][55][56][57][58][59][60] Kim Soo-hyun then fulfilled his public pledge to give a piggyback ride to the 10 millionth ticket holder, a middle school girl.[61]

After reaching over 11 million viewers on its fourth week, it rose to number 4 on the Korean all-time box office charts, beating Haeundae.[62][63][64][65] It then passed 12 million to leapfrog over Taegukgi,[66][67] and on its sixth week its 12.31 million overtook King and the Clown's record to become the second highest grossing movie in Korean film history.[68][69][70][71]

Though the film's promoter sent out a press release that The Thieves reached 13,020,393 admissions on October 2 (70 days since its opening) and is now number 1 on the all-time box office chart,[72][73][74][75][76] the Korean Film Council reports the actual admissions to be at 12,983,334 — leaving the previous record of The Host unbroken.[77]

International release[edit]

The distribution rights to the picture were purchased by several countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Vietnam.[78][79][80] It made its North American premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival,[81] and was distributed in the US by Well Go USA Entertainment.[82] Well Go released it on DVD and Blu-ray on February 12, 2013.

Awards and nominations[edit]

2012 Buil Film Awards

  • Best Cinematography - Choi Yeong-hwan
  • Best Art Direction - Lee Ha-jun
  • Buil Readers' Jury Award
  • Nomination - Best Director - Choi Dong-hoon
  • Nomination - Best Supporting Actress - Kim Hae-sook
  • Nomination - Best New Actor - Kim Soo-hyun

2012 Grand Bell Awards[83]

2012 Korean Association of Film Critics Awards[84]

  • Best Cinematography - Choi Yeong-hwan

2012 Blue Dragon Film Awards[85]

  • Technical Award - Yoo Sang-sub, Jung Yoon-hyun
  • Popularity Award - Kim Soo-hyun
  • Audience Choice Award for Most Popular Film
  • Nomination - Best Film
  • Nomination - Best Director - Choi Dong-hoon
  • Nomination - Best Supporting Actress - Kim Hae-sook
  • Nomination - Best New Actor - Kim Soo-hyun
  • Nomination - Best Screenplay - Choi Dong-hoon, Lee Ki-cheol
  • Nomination - Best Cinematography - Choi Yeong-hwan
  • Nomination - Best Lighting - Kim Seong-kwan

2012 Korean Culture and Entertainment Awards[86]

2012 Women in Film Korea Awards[87][88]

  • Best Producer - Ahn Soo-hyun

2013 KOFRA Film Awards (Korea Film Reporters Association)[89]

2013 Asian Film Awards[90]

2013 Baeksang Arts Awards[91]


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External links[edit]