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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
Director Kim Jee-woon says he'd like this to be called a "kimchee western", after the Korean food made with fermented cabbages. He says he thinks the plot and film are spicy and vibrant, like the Korean culture and people. See more »
One of Park Chang-yi's gang uses an incorrectly identified British Sten gun. It's actually a SIG Bergmann 1920 which was imported by the Japanese. See more »
barely deeper than a footprint, but so much fun you'll forget you care
This movie is fantastic, exhilarating and fun. High dramatic art it is not.
It's a movie about a chase for treasure, and it holds onto that and never forgets. In the pursuit of creating a chase, everything is crafted carefully. The cinematography is breathtaking, with huge elaborate sets that are used to their fullest. Most of the stunts and effects are real, CGI being kept to a minimum. It is an action movie with actual action instead of pixels, a rarity in movies from the past 10 years. Stunning candy for all the senses, it gets your adrenaline pumping! As far as acting goes, it is excellent. Korean comic actor Song Kang-Ho fills the "Weird" role of Tae-Goo, pulling off a combination of humanity and quirkiness. Lee Byung-Hun is the 'bad' character, brutal and insane as gangster Chang-Yi. Filling out the main three is Jung Woo-Son as the cool, collected and more than a little arrogant bounty hunter Do-Won. While Jung is eclipsed by the other two, his character ultimately became my favorite during the climax. The supporting cast is none-too-shabby either, playing everything from military dropouts to ninjas, all well. Particularly entertaining are the leaders of a group of Manchurian gangsters, who watch insanity take place and calmly discuss it from horseback.
Now, while the acting is good...there is not a lot of it. I don't think anyone is going to try to pretend this is a character-driven piece. It could have been, maybe, but it wasn't try to be. It was trying to be fun. There is enough character development so that when the climax rolls around after two madcap hours of amazing action, you care that the characters lives are being threatened. That's...all.
But the action is extremely well done, with a heart-pounding score that makes it all the well fun. For entertainment, you aren't going to get much more well-done for this. Supremely fun, with scenes shot with people, horses, cars and real pyrotechnics in the middle of the Gobi desert (too much CGI and spectacle just becomes yawn-worthy, I often fun). So get the DVD, get some popcorn, turn the sound WAY up and prepare for a beautifully-crafted action movie. Not for a complex character-driven masterpiece.
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