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Once a Thief

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Hong Kong director John Woo’s work has always seemed tailored for the video market. His freeze-frames, wipes, tracking shots, and slo-mo multi-angle setups turn throwaway popcorn actioners into a couch potato’s personal Grand Guignol. But in Once a Thief, unlike in his ingenious Face/Off, the plot twists only to accommodate intermittent thrills, the sanitized violence is humorless, and it’s hard to care about the assembly-line characters. Why would a gifted cinema shaman submit this bloodless hackwork for your disapproval? Opportunistic marketing: It’s a repackaged TV movie (remade from Woo’s 1991 Asian version) that aired on Fox last September. C-

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