Tuesday, June 14, 2011

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE WEIRD


Kim Ji-woon, 2008
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Byung-hun, Jung Woo-sung

Joheun nom nabbeun nom isanghan nom or The Good, the Bad, and the Weird is an entertaining Korean-Western set in 1930s Manchuria during the Japanese occupation. Yoon Tae-go or "the Weird" (Song Kang-go) is a reckless train thief who has stolen an antique treasure map and is in hot pursuit of the treasure. Park Chang-yi or "the Bad" (Lee Byung-hun) is a local gangster and assassin who pursues Yoon to retrieve the map and regain his status of Number One Assassin/gun-fighter in the land. Park Do-won, "the Good," is a bounty hunter determined to collect on both men. They race each other across the Manchurian desert and narrowly avoid Korean gangs, Chinese warlords, and the Japanese army to defeat one another and claim the treasure. Well, kind of. Yoon wants the treasure, Park Chang-yi wants glory and Park Do-won just wants his bounty.

This movie ridiculously took two years to get to the U.S. It premiered at Cannes to favorable reviews, which have continued during its Western expansion. Though it isn't a perfect film, it is damn entertaining. Written, produced, and directed by Kim Ji-woon, he is part of the trinity of awesome Korean genre directors with Park Chan-wook and Bong Joon-ho. He also directed Tale of Two Sisters, Bittersweet Life, and most recently, I Saw the Devil, which it will probably take another two years for me to see.

The best thing I can say about The Good, the Bad, and the Weird is that it uses its resources immensely well. In addition to great source material -- it was obviously inspired by Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly -- great fight scenes, and decent CGI, the film also has three Korean stars who are clearly having a hell of a lot of fun with their roles. Song Kang-ho as "the Weird" is probably the most famous of the three actors. Aside from his roles in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Memories of Murder, Western audiences should recognize him from The Host. Lee Byung-hun is "the Bad" with perfect hair and perfect abs. He's a beautiful, beautiful man. Primarily known for A Bittersweet Life, he was also cast in G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra as Storm Shadow. He's kind of an interesting guy: in addition to acting, he's a Taekwando expert and speaks Korean, English, French, and Mandarin. And, like most attractive Asian actors, he also has his own album. Kind of makes you feel unaccomplished. Jung Woo-sung is probably the least known to Western audiences, starring and co-starring in lesser known Korean films like Kumiho and Daisy. All three men are very good in the film with Song Kang-ho and Lee Byung-hun given the most screen time and plot importance.

As I said, the film is far from perfect. It has some lousy CGI, some dull moments, and some cheese. Overall I would definitely recommend it for fans of Westerns and Asian action films. The Good, the Bad, and the Weird has train robbery, horse chases, Manchurian warlords, sword fights, gun fights, motorcycles, and some outrageous violence. My favorite scene, which you should keep your eyes peeled for, involves death by flying spear.

The film is widely available on DVD and Blu-ray; hell, I found it at Best Buy, much to my amazement. The MPI release, which I am reviewing, is a widescreen single disc. The DVD cover has a blurb saying the film is "ridiculous fun" and, for once, they're dead on.

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