Drawn to a humble peasant named Dumbo (Baoqiang) who’s returning home from the provinces with a bundle of cash, Wang Li (Liu) — a gorgeous grifter who’s just decided to call it quits with her lover, master swindler Wang Bo (Lau), and their illegal lifestyle — offers to ride the train to Beijing with the innocent rube to protect him from thieves. Sure enough, a cunning gang of pickpockets, led by master of disguise Uncle Li (Ge You), has their eye on the lad’s loot.
Why we love it
A train becomes the site of clever dupes, surprise twists, and tense confrontation between rival thieves in Feng’s riveting suspense thriller, with a climactic showdown between Bo and Uncle Li as the final flourish. More than an action drama, Feng packs in a neat tale of romantic frisson as well as an undercurrent of poignancy around the figure of Dumbo, who stands for China’s naive, laboring masses. Stars at home, Lau and Liu certainly emit sparks here, but it’s Ge You as the nefarious Uncle Li and the alluring, vixenish Li Bingbing as “Little Leaf” who steal the show. Stylishly shot and edited, and making good use of its rural Chinese locales, “Thieves” is an A-plus ride.