Once a Thief

Watch Once a Thief

  • R
  • 1996
  • 1 hr 43 min
  • 5.2  (1,773)

Once a Thief is a thrilling action-comedy movie from 1996, directed by John Woo and starring Sandrine Holt, Ivan Sergei and Nicholas Lea in lead roles. The movie tells the story of a family of thieves who are coerced by the Chinese government to steal a precious artifact in exchange for their freedom. The film opens on three orphaned siblings - Mac (Ivan Sergei), Li Ann (Sandrine Holt), and Michael (Nicholas Lea) - who were raised by a notorious thief and trained in the art of pilfering since childhood. The three siblings now run a legitimate art gallery, but their thieving skills continue to come in handy. Mac is a master thief with a penchant for dangerous risks, Li Ann is a skilled martial artist with an indomitable spirit, and Michael is a computer expert with a sharp mind.

The siblings soon find themselves forced to return to their thieving ways when the Chinese government blackmails them into stealing a valuable jade artifact called the "Tears of the Dragon". They are promised their freedom from government surveillances should they complete the task.

The siblings embark on their dangerous mission, but things soon spiral out of control as they discover they are not alone in their pursuit of the artifact. They are joined by an rival thief, Victor Mansfield (Michael Wong), and a beautiful freelance thief and acrobat ‘Red Bean’, played alongside Sandrine Holt by Ling Bai. The two groups face off as they try to outwit each other and secure the priceless object.

Once a Thief provides ample doses of action, comedy, romance and plenty of thrilling chase sequences. The movie is bolstered by the stellar performances of the three leads, who have great chemistry on screen. Their sibling bond is palpable, and their banter keeps the movie's serious moments from feeling too heavy.

In particular, Sandrine Holt's portrayal of Li Ann brings depth and vulnerability to the character. She is outwardly tough and determined, but has a soft side that's revealed through her flashbacks. Ivan Sergei is charismatic as Mac and his devil-may-care attitude helps to lighten the mood. Nicholas Lea as Michael, provides comic relief as well as playing the brains of the operation.

The heist sequences in the movie are expertly choreographed and offer a thrilling experience for the audience. John Woo's signature style of exaggerated slow-motion and sweeping camera angles make each scene a treat to watch. The film’s electronic synth score (following a John Woo tradition) adds to the engaging visuals.

Cinematic flair and flawless pacing aside, what makes this movie truly stand out is the sibling bond which forms the core of the story. The movie explores themes like loyalty, betrayal and revenge. The siblings navigate a complex web of trust and deception, as they struggle to complete their mission and maintain their loyalty to each other.

Once a Thief is a fun, stylish, and well-executed action-comedy that manages to breathe new life into the Hollywood heist genre. With an excellent cast and a sleek style, the film is a must-watch for anyone who loves a good caper.

Once a Thief
Once a Thief doesn't appear to be available from any streaming services.
Add this movie to your Watchlist to get notified when it's available.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 43 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    5.2  (1,773)