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A guksu western. Three Korean gunslingers are in Manchuria circa World War II: Do-wan, an upright bounty hunter, Chang-yi, a thin-skinned and ruthless killer, and Tae-goo, a train robber with nine lives. Tae-goo finds a map he's convinced leads to buried treasure; Chang-yi wants it as well for less clear reasons. Do-wan tracks the map knowing it will bring him to Chang-yi, Tae-goo, and reward money. Occupying Japanese forces and their Manchurian collaborators also want the map, as does the Ghost Market Gang who hangs out at a thieves' bazaar. These enemies cross paths frequently and dead bodies pile up. Will anyone find the map's destination and survive to tell the tale? Written by
not weird, but a lot of fun and some epic sequences
The Good, the Bad, the Weird is a film that by its own title says 'there's something extra here', that there might be another twist on what Leone's masterpiece brought to us in film. From Ji-Woon Kim (director of the acclaimed Tale of Two Sisters) one would also think his first foray into an action spectacle would be bug-f*** insane. But as it turns out, this is really just another action movie, nothing too 'weird' enough about it (the 'Weird' character isn't even that weird, more just scum along the lines of his inspiration of Tuco in GB&U). Is this a bad thing? Not at all. It's a respectable, sometimes even really thrilling and alive, action western that could be described as a "noodle-western" with its setting in Manchuria and featuring Korean, Chinese and Japanese players in a setting with basically the same general plot of Leone's film, except this time featuring a treasure map with an undetermined amount of fortune, and set in the 1930's.
While it did shoot short of being really great and original - it's setting and variation on the characters is really the only change that Kim's homage to spaghetti westerns goes- it's a lot of fun seeing how the characters get where they go, and how the set-pieces do function as best they can. The opening train sequence has a lot of verve and some humor (more people in the screening were laughing out loud than I was, but it was always amusing), and there's one particular chase sequence out in the desert when 'Weird' (a very good Kang-ho Song) is driving in his cart from an entire army and tons of bandits, all firing guns (some machine variety) and put to the 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood' cover that was featured in Kill Bill Vol. 1. This is, at the least, a real breathtaker, where Kim just says 'f*** it' and goes all out with propelling the action forward, with anybody getting in the way trampled underfoot.
The film also boasts a few other goodies. One of these is the performance of 'The Bad', Park Chang-yi, who has a very crazed look in his eyes every other moment and is purported to be a notorious finger-chopper with his victims. His work makes it constantly watchable whenever he's on screen. And, as mentioned the actor Kang-ho Song (who we previously saw as the Priest in Park's 'Thirst') is tough as nails and goofy as hell in his part of the Weird. The other main player, Woo-sung Jung as 'The Good' is more the straight man, less a bad-ass than Clint Eastwood but more subtle and with a more obscure and interesting back-story that is only revealed in snippets. While Kim definitely verges from the usual Mexican stand-off just a bit in the climax, there's at least a sense of real love for his source material of The Good the Bad and the Ugly, and action westerns in general.
If only it could be a little more, well, weird. It's certainly no Sukyiaki Western Django, but if you're hankering for some bloody western fun and shameless action and characterizations (and a little jazz to boot), it gets good marks on all counts.
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