Filmed in Vancouver, B.C., by Alliance Communications Corp. and WCG Entertainment. Executive producers, John Woo, Terence Chang, Glenn Davis, William Laurin; co-executive producer, Christopher Godsick; producer, Wendy Grean; director, Woo, writers, Davis, Laurin; Prolific Hong Kong action director John Woo who scored earlier this year with the Fox release “Broken Arrow” brings his trademark swooping camera, big explosions and wry, smart-alecky humor to the small screen with “Once a Thief,” an entertaining telepic that can best be described as Woo Lite. The bigscreen talent behind many Woo pics are in place producer Terence Chang, cinematographer Bill Wong, editor David Wu but the effect is still small screen.
Action begins in Hong Kong, with a daring heist pulled off by what seems to be a trio of refugees from an Aaron Spelling series.
The gorgeous thieves Li Ann (Sandrine Holt), Michael (Michael Wong) and Mac (Ivan Sergei) who have been raised as siblings by the Godfather of Hong Kong (Robert Ito) now are the main operatives in his criminal empire. Michael is his biological son and heir apparent.
Mac and Michael both love Li Ann but she’s been promised in marriage to Michael, although she really loves Mac, and the lovers decide to split with the godfather’s money to start a new life. The love triangle ends up a quadrangle in Vancouver with the introduction of hunky Victor (Nicholas Lea), an ex-cop engaged to Li Ann, and both work for a James Bondish type of international crime-fighting agency Whew!
Crystalline plotting is not the point. There are innumerable twists in the course of “Thief’s” two hours, which sometimes slow the time between the expertly staged fights and explosions.
Ivan Sergei is a real charmer, bringing a stellar sense of comic timing to his role, essential to a Woo pic (just check out John Travolta in “Broken Arrow”). Holt, Lea and Wong also acquit themselves well in their up-to-the-minute outfits put together by the sharp-eyed costumer Donna Wong.
Stylish actioner’s tech credits are all feature-film top-notch, especially the camerawork by Bill Wong.