A WORLD WITHOUT THIEVES
Reviewed by: Dave Murray
What's it about
A thieving couple pretending to be siblings decide to give up their crime spree, until they meet a hapless and naive carpenter traveling home by train with a bag full of cash. In a move that will change all of their lives, the duo set out to protect the young man from not only himself, but from a group of seasoned and cunning master thieves as well!
Is it good movie?
Hell yes, despite the fact that some parts of it bored me to tears. The story is engaging, simple and fun, and some of the small bursts of martial arts action are quick, tight and amazing. While director Xiaogang Feng is more popularly known for lighter family fare and romances, his tight and controlled direction here leaves little to laugh about. It looks like he's just as suited to action/romance as he is to the other genres he's tried.
But that might just be due to the quality of the cast here. Andy Lau (who was excellent in the under appreciated Infernal Affairs) plays his role as Bo with an understated charisma and a mercenary attitude. As well, his slight little pickpocket tricks are very nicely done. Complimenting him is his partner Li, played by Rene Liu, who is quiet, spiritual and quite possibly terminally ill, but no less the master when it comes to thieving. The rest of the cast does what they have to do, but even then they get the job done in telling this story.
And the story is what's showcased in this movie, with lots of dialogue and artistic imagery, which is a departure from the frenetic action sequences that most people associate with Asian action flicks. What small displays of martial arts skill there are here are limited to thieving tricks and small contained hand battles, that are shot with small jump cuts, which seem to energize the action. It's almost easy to imagine that these small fights would be invisible to everyone around the combatants.
The movie is shot with two styles in mind, one that is static and very character focused, and the other which is more artistic, with the use of closeups and tight random shots. It's not what you would expect of a Chinese Action flick, but because of the story, this one benefits from its choice of pacing and styles. By no means an excellent movie, it is an entertaining way to spend 100 minutes.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen - 1.66:1.
Audio: Mandarin (Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Stereo) and subtitles in English and Spanish.
There are 6 Deleted Scenes, a 9 minute Making Of Documentary, also in Mandarin, as well as the Original Trailer, a short Photo Gallery, and a host of other trailers from Tartan Video, including The Hidden Blade, Natural City, Old Boy, and Lady Vengeance.
While not the greatest of Asian action cinema, and certainly not what one would expect considering the cast, A World Without Thieves is an entertaining character piece that highlights the acting talent of its stars and the controlled and meticulous directing style of Xiaogang Feng. While not an addition to every Asian fan's collection, this movie is good for what it is, an insightful and quirky commentary on a way of life that we are often shown, but never in this low-key light.