Once a Thief (1991 film)

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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 Manyee
Cinematography Poon Hang-sang
William Yim
Edited by David Wu
Distributed by Golden Princess Amusement
Release date
  • 2 February 1991 (1991-02-02) (Hong Kong)
  • 14 January 1994 (1994-01-14) (US)
Running time
103 minutes
Country Hong Kong
Language Cantonese

Once a Thief (Chinese: 縱橫四海; Literal Title: Criss-Cross Over Four Seas) is a 1991 Hong Kong caper film written and directed by John Woo, starring Chow Yun-fat, Leslie Cheung, Cherie Chung, Kenneth Tsang and Paul Chu. The film was released in the Hong Kong on 2 February 1991.


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



The film grossed HK$33,397,149 in Hong Kong.[citation needed]

Columbia Tri-Star released it on DVD in the United States on 22 April 2003. It included no special features beyond trailers.[1] On 27 December 2004, Hong Kong Legends released a DVD in the United Kingdom.[2] Eight months later, on 5 September 2005, the John Woo Collection, a four-disc DVD set, was released. It includes the two action films Bullet in the Head and The Killer.


Scott Tobias of The A.V. Club wrote that Woo's style makes up for the film's implausibility and lack of logic.[3] Kevin Lee DVD Verdict wrote that the film has "a lack of focus and an uneven tone".[4] Chris Gould of DVDactive.com rated the film 5/10 and wrote that there was too much slapstick.[2] J. Doyle Wallis of DVD Talk rated it 2.5/5 stars and called it "an odd and annoyingly silly entry during [John Woo's] most creative period."[1]


Ceremony Category Recipient Outcome
11th Hong Kong Film Awards Best Film Once A Thief Nominated
Best Director John Woo Nominated
Best Actor Chow Yun-fat Nominated
Best Film Editing David Wu Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wallis, J. Doyle (2003-05-09). "Once a Thief". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2014-08-04. 
  2. ^ a b Gould, Chris. "Chris Gould takes a look at the latest release from Hong Kong Legends, John Woo's action-comedy Once a Thief..." DVDactive.com. Retrieved 2014-08-04. 
  3. ^ Tobias, Scott (2003-05-06). "Once A Thief (DVD)". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2014-08-04. 
  4. ^ Lee, Kevin (19 June 2003). "Once A Thief". DVD Verdict. Archived from the original on 19 July 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2014. 

External links[edit]