The pair are naturally unorthodox in their methods and skirt the letter of the law on a regular basis, providing heartburn for their captain and fodder for lawsuits. Hines is an unattached bachelor with a not-very-serious relationship with a woman who has a wealthy boyfriend, and Crystal is officially divorced but still attached to his ex-wife -- who now plans to marry a dentist. When they arrest up-and-coming drug dealer and kingpin wannabe Jimmy Smits, they almost get killed because of sloppy decisions and their captain enforces a vacation on them. Their sojourn in Key West convinces them to put in for retirement and buy a bar on the islands as soon as their final 30 days are up, but Smits was released and they vow to return him to jail before leaving for good. Unsurprisingly, it's not that simple.
The highlight of the movie is the Hines-Crystal relationship; they light up the screen whether kvetching, arresting, chasing or shooting the bull with each other. Other than an el-track car chase, the action pieces are so-so and probably do more to make a viewer wish they would end so we could get back to the snappy patter of the two leads. None of the other roles matter all that much except for Dan Hedaya as the pair's beleaguered captain; Joe Pantoliano's screen time is too brief and none of the women do much more than decorate the scenes they're in. That, plus about a half-hour too much of movie, make Running Scared an amusing nostalgia piece that can offer a lot of fodder for YouTube clips but isn't worth enduring much more than once.
The job will be tough enough in one of the city of Macau's highest-security casinos, but complicating the caper are some murky interpersonal relationships on the two teams and Macao Park's history with Popie. Since everyone involved is by definition a criminal, the trust level between the two teams is not high, and neither is either team's trust in Macao Park. As it turns out, several players have their own separate agendas that could put them all in Wei Hong's crosshairs as well as draw attention from the police.
The theft itself is about three-fifths of the way through the movie, offering plenty of time to watch the meticulous planning and the gamesmanship of the post-caper maneuvering. The large cast -- there are close to a dozen major players -- means there's not a lot of time to flesh out our characters, but director and co-writer Choi Dong-hoon uses flashbacks and brief onscreen interactions to establish as much about them as his story needs us to know.
The Thieves is some excellent escapist fun with a surprising amount of depth in its story as the drama plays out. It's one of the top box-office movies in South Korean history and while it doesn't do quite as well on a small screen as it probably did in theaters, it's definitely worth the look.