A World Without Thieves DVD Review

Written by Steve Pattee

DVD released by Tartan Video

What's a thief look like? – Dumbo

Written and directed by Feng Xiaogang
2004, Region 1, 100 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released July 24, 2007

Andy Lau as Wang Bo
Rene Liu as Wang Li
You Ge as Uncle Bill
Baoqiang Wang as Sha Gen
Bingbing Li as Xiao Ye

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Lovers and thieves, Bo and Li, have been in the business a long time, until one day, out of the blue, Li informs Bo of her decision to leave the crooked path for the straight and narrow.

Bo, trying to convince Li it's a bad idea, ends up starting an argument with her. Li, hurt and angry, gets out of the car—in the middle of nowhere—and sets out on foot. Frustrated, Bo drives off into the sunset.

Eventually Li runs into Dumbo—an incredibly trusting young man with who was orphaned as a child and raised by monks. Dumbo provides the downtrodden and weather-beaten Li with some much needed water, and a bond between the two quickly forms.

Turns out Dumbo is leaving the small village he grew up in to make a life of his own. Against the advice of his friends, the too-trusting Dumbo takes his life savings, 60,000 yuan, on the train ride to his new life.

This is the worst train ever, as it not only has Bo—who is most definitely not following Li's straight and narrow path—but another group of master thieves as passengers.

And they all know what's in Dumbo's carry on.

Now it's up to Li to protect Dumbo and his money from the thieves, and Dumbo himself.

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It's really tough to know where to start reviewing a movie, when you don't even know what to call it.

A World Without Thieves has drama, comedy, action, romance and even a little bit of suspense.

Starring Chinese icon Andy Lau, as Bo, Thieves manages to mix all of those genres together rather nicely, never having too much of any ingredient. The star of such films as Infernal Affairs and House of Flying Daggers, Lau himself adds to the flavor, as he's constantly a solid performer.

Rene Liu, as Li, is also terrific as the mouse to Bo's cat. There's a sensitivity in her that radiates off screen, and when the secret she's harboring comes out, you feel for her even more.

But the real player in this movie, the one who's most fun to watch, is Bingbing Li, as Ye, a young thief-in-training. Sexy and dangerous, her dangerous flirtations with Bo really steal the show. She's reminiscent of Chiaki Kuriyama's performance of Gogo in Kill Bill (the chicky with the ball-and-chain in the big fight scene). Just as sexy. Just as dangerous. But with a little more sensuality.

The movie is very stylistic, and the editing is a little odd in some scenes—the fight scenes in particular. When the action first started, and the edit becomes quick, I inwardly groaned. But there was a method to this MTV-cut madness. As I watched, it dawned on me that the fight was choreographed in such a way that the characters were not just fighting, but dancing some sort of kung-fu tango. This fits with the rest of the visual style of the film, as it's not your typical action flick. Visually, it's not as grand as, say, Hero, but it's stylistically more developed than Transporter. This style and subtle innuendo gave me an appreciation for the other fights.

The story itself is a predictable one, and it's fitting the movie takes place on a train. Like the other passengers, you know exactly what's at the end of the line. And, like the other passengers, you are just along for the ride, taking in the scenery.

I will admit, though, there is one thing at the end of the film I never saw coming. It is a punch to the stomach. But, as hindsight is 20/20, I damn well should have, all things considered. It definitely takes the movie up a notch. Hell, my appreciation of the film is elevated just because of it.

Yet, even with my appreciation of the ending, I was a tad disappointed in Thieves. This was a film I have heard a lot about, and I had been looking forward to checking it out for a while. But, even with its smack at the end, the movie, like the train its filmed on, is a straight path from beginning to end. And that's a bit of a shame, because considering the players involved, it could have been a little more.

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Video and Audio:

Thieves' 1.85:1 anamorphic picture is an overall average presentation. There are occasional specks throughout (which is a bit surprising considering the flick is only three years old), but its nothing that will detract your viewing experience, nor will it make it a display DVD.

The Mandarin DTS track is just fine, with some nice, subtle use of the rears and sides of the frequent train noises. Like the video, it's nothing that you are going to use to show off to your friends, but it gets it done.

Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 and English and Spanish subtitles are available.

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Special Features:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • The Making of A World Without Thieves
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

The "making of" is nothing more than a few featurettes (six, to be exact). After the second one, they all kind of play the same. The total running time is about nine minutes (three clock in at just over two minutes each, and three are just over one minute each), and the only way to play them is all at once. As they are more promotional pieces more than anything else, watch the first few and you've got it covered.

Of the six deleted scenes, one really should have stayed, as it explained an unanswered question regarding why a character didn't lose a finger.

There is a photo gallery feature—not mentioned on the box cover—that is a three and a half minute slideshow over some of the music from the film. You can't jump to the next picture (unless you use the fast foward button on your remote, as opposed to the "next" button).

There are also trailers for A World Without Thieves, The Hidden Blade, Natural City, Old Boy and Lady Vengeance.

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Movie: 2.5 Star Rating Cover
Video: Grade
Audio: Grade
Features: Grade
Overall: 2.5 Star Rating

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Steve Pattee
US Editor, Admin
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
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