ONCE A THIEF is a Canadian TV series (filmed in Toronto). It's based on the movie/pilot, John Woo's Once A Thief (Violent Traditions in European distribution), that aired in September 1996 on Fox. Fox chose not to pick it up as a series, so it was syndicated by Alliance.

Sandrine HoltLi Ann Tsei
Twenty-six year old Sandrine Holt is Li Ann Tsei. Like Mac, Li Ann was adopted by the Godfather of the Hong Kong mafia. She was raised as Mac's sister, but ended up his lover - for awhile, anyway. Thinking Mac was dead, she became engaged to Victor. When Mac reappears, Li Ann is torn between the two men.

Ivan SergeiMac Ramsey
Twenty-five-year-old Ivan Sergei is Mac Ramsey. Mac is a streetwise, reckless young man with an attitude. Abandoned by his real parents, he was adopted by the family in charge of the Hong Kong mafia, the Tangs, and raised to be an art thief.

Nicholas LeaVictor Mansfield
Thirty-five-year-old Nick Lea is Victor Mansfield. Vic was a police officer, but grew impatient with the red tape and corruption, leading him to seek less orthodox methods of fighting crime. He ends up partnered with reformed thieves Mac and Li Ann, working for the Director.
Nick Lea is actually the main reason in itself for watching OAT.

Jennifer DaleThe Director
Forty-two-year-old Jennifer Dale plays The Director, Mac's, Li Ann's, and Victor's "twisted leather freak" of a boss. (Jennifer Dale's sister Cynthia is also an actor. Cynthia Dale starred in a series called Taking the Falls; Nick Lea played her boyfriend in one episode. And Jennifer also guest-stared on Taking the Falls - as Cynthia's sister!)

One episode called The Director Files is a direct parody of The X-files, and trust me... its funny.

Not realizing that the ORIGINAL MOVIE never had a wu, I am now contributing what I know about it...otherwise, most of you will only know it as a truly horrendous tv show.

The original film was released in 1990, directed by John Woo, and starred Chow Yun Fat (Joe), Leslie Cheung (Jim), and Cherie Cheung (Cherie...gee, what creativity). The story centered on a group of three orphans who were raised together by a mean-hearted crook (played by Kenneth Tsang) who teaches the three kids all the tricks of the thievery trade and regularly abuses them.

The three orphans grow up to become international art thieves and the beginning of the film has the three making a successful steal of a priceless piece being shipped from the Louvre.

Their "godfather" then asks Joe and Jim to make another steal of a priceless work that is stored inside a heavily fortified castle. Both of them agree, much to the chagrin of Cherie who, by this time, is romantically involved with Joe and wants all of them to leave the profession. Joe and Jim promise that this will be the last heist and that they will leave together once it is done.

Unfortunately, once the two successfully make off with the painting, they find that they've been double-crossed and end up in a furious gun battle where Joe seemingly meets his demise in an explosion.

Jim gets away, meets up with Cherie, tells her the bad news, and they both leave France.

Two years after the explosion, Joe returns but is confined in a wheelchair. He gets together with Jim and Cherie again, only to find that the both of them have now become a couple. Nevertheless, both Jim and himself end up getting contacted by their "godfather" who has now become a big-time gangster. He asks the two to steal the same painting again at an auction house. Mayhem ensues.

What made this film unique was that it was a departure from the usual dour and cynical bullet ballets of John Woo. Instead, the director turned out his own version of a caper movie, much like "The Thomas Crowne Affair" but with more humour and plenty more bullets. There are several great scenes in the movie, the most memorable being the castle heist scene and the ballroom dancing scene with Cherie and Joe (in a wheelchair!).

So, if you ever happen to find the original in a video store near you, go ahead and rent it. It'll help erase the memory of a TV show gone bad...unfortunately, the TV version is probably the only one that you'll find at Blockbuster.

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