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Once a Thief Comparison (Tai Seng vs. Hong Kong Legends) 
Written by: on September 21st, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, February 2nd, 1991
Director:
John Woo
Writers:
Janet Chun, Clifton Ko, John Woo
Cast:
Chow Yun-Fat, Leslie Cheung, Cherie Chung
Once a Thief
Once a Thief
DVD released: 1998 2005
Approximate running time: 103m24s 104m21s
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR 15
Sound: Mandarin and Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 with English subtitles English and Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 with English subtitles
DVD Release: Tai Seng Hong Kong Legends
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: $29.95 £16.99


Tai Seng‘s Region 1 DVD
Hong Kong Legends Region 2 DVD


Tai Seng‘s Region 1 DVD/Playback Frame: 720×540


Hong Kong Legends Region 2 DVD/Playback Frame: 1024×576


The Film :

A trio of art thieves Joe (Chow Yun-Fat), Jim (Leslie Cheung) and Cherie (Cherie Chung) who have known each other since childhood. Later after they finish their latest heist Cherie briefly convinces the other two that they should all retire as thieves and live a normal life. Joe and Jim behind her back decide to take one final job stealing a priceless painting from a heavily guarded fortress. At first everything falls into place as they gain possession of the painting and then something goes terribly wrong as they try to escape. Joe and Jim caught in the crossfire of hired assassins who are trying to recover the painting decide to split up and in the confusion the painting is lost.

Video:

The Tai Seng release is presented in a non anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The color look muted and details are lacking through out. This transfer is interlaced and has some minor ghosting. The Hong Kong Legends release is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Colors look nicely saturated and flesh tones look natural. The black levels remain strong and details look sharp through out. Overall this progressive scan transfer is virtually flawless and it is the best transfer of Once of Thief that I have seen to date.

Audio:

The Tai Seng release comes with two audio options Mandarin and Cantonese both of these audio mixes are presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 that are free of hiss and the dialog is easy to understand. The music and effects sounds distorted at times. Removable English subtitles that are easy to read and follow have been included. The Hong Kong Legends release comes with two audio options English and Cantonese both of these audio mixes are presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 and these two tracks offer crystal clear dialog. The music and effects are an improvement over the Tai Seng release as they sound evenly mixed and never distort each other. Removable English subtitles that are easy to read and follow have been included.

Extras:

Extras for the Tai Seng release include the films original theatrical trailer and coming attractions trailer that includes clips from other Tai Seng releases. Other extras include a brief synopsis about the film. Rounding out the extras are bios and filmographies for John Woo, Chow Yun-Fat, Leslie Cheung and Cherie Chung. Extras for the Hong Kong Legends release include a trailer gallery that includes the films original theatrical trailer and its UK trailer. Other extras include trailers and information about other Hong Kong Legends releases and an audio commentary with Hong Kong film expert Bey Logan. Rounding out the extras is three featurette’s “Walking through the Shadow’s” a tribute to Leslie Cheung, “Brother in Arms” an interview with the films producer Terence Chang and “Up Close and Personal” an interview with John Woo.

Overall:

Both releases are virtually the same time length with the difference in time amounting to opening Media Asia credits. There is also a region 1 release of Once a Thief released by Columbia/Tri-Star that has a nice looking transfer unfortunately it has no extras. The Hong Kong Legends release has a superior audio/video presentation and a few enticing extras making it hands down the best DVD release of this film to date.

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