The Good The Bad The Weird

Korean director Kim Ji-Woon’s The Good, The Bad, The Weird is a hodgepodge Asian spaghetti western (should that be ‘eastern’?) that perfectly recreates a Sergio Leone gun-slinging bonanza on the Mongolian Steppe with uncommon bravado and a delight in complicated action sequences. It’s a hoot.

Opening with a frantic train robbery in the 1930s, the film never pauses for breath. All the horse opera tropes get an airing, but the title tells you all you need to know about the plot. A crack shot with his repeating Winchester, Jung Woo-Sung plays the good, a white-hatted hero and honest bounty hunter. Swathed in black and with a jarringly contemporary haircut Lee Byung-hun is the bad, a deranged bandit fashioned after Lee Van Cleef’s demonic Angel Eyes. Caught between them is an unkempt peasant chancer (Korea’s best known comic actor Song Kang-ho), the weird by subtraction but also the source of much of the film’s ironic humour. All three are searching for a legendary treasure map, an unsubtle McGuffin, which promises untold riches to the individual smart and brave enough to track it down.

A cursory introduction to the main players and a sketchy outline of the plot very soon gives way to a series of all-action sequences, the highlights of which are an elaborate shoot out in an abandoned village that transforms bullet-riddled violence into goofy slapstick and a deliriously over-extended chase across the desert, with the three heroes chasing each other and in turn, being chased by the imperial Japanese army.

It’s around this point that the film struggles to maintain its momentum, the galloping plot becoming more and more convoluted, piling up the chases, duplicities and flashbacks. Ji-Woon gives so many nods to Leone and his legion of followers that he is in danger of straining his neck. But with such beautifully realised stunt-work (all done without the assistance of computer post production) and the glowing talents of a perfectly chosen cast, his rip-snorting film rises above it’s origins as pastiche to become something wholly inventive and painstakingly entertaining that will reward the attention of an investigative audience.

1 comment:

Bassem B. said...

I just watched this movie and I enjoyed it tremendously.
I'm a big fan of the classic GB&Ugly, but this film, though similar, is enjoyable for different reasons, as you said - it had me laughing out loud many times.

The mix of western elements with more modern stuff (motorbikes etc) gives it a peculiar style.

I have to say the plot was a little thin - but that's common to many East Asia films, and isn't so much a flaw as a preference for more character-focused storytelling.

But one thing I definitely did not like was the very stretched middle part - the giant chase in the desert. Although there were some very good bits, it couldhave taken some compressing.

Still, I very much enjoyed this movie, it's a keeper!