#119 The Good The Bad The Weird
좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈 (Joheun nom nabbeun nom isanghan nom)
(2008, Kim Ji-Woon)
“Even if a man has no country, he still has to have money”
So this was an odd selection to come across on my list. Essentially sounding like a parody of the famous spaghetti western starring Clint Eastwood, with “Ugly” becoming “Weird”, it turned out it was actually a Korean western, or as director Kim Ji-Woon suggests, a “kimchee western” (as opposed to Sergio Leone’s Italian-made spaghetti westerns – get it?). I really didn’t know how a Korean western would work, but I like to think I’m open-minded, so let’s see what it’s all about.
In 1930s Manchuria, the bandit Park Chang-yi (aka “The Bad”, played by Lee Byung-hun) is hired to steal a map from a Japanese official travelling by train. But plans go awry when Yoon Tae-Goo (“The Weird”, Song Kang-ho) also boards the train with the same intention, and gets there before The Bad. Also on the train is Park Do-won (“The Good”, Jung Woo-sung), a bounty hunter seeking out The Bad. The three parties end up mixed up with a gang of bandits and the Japanese army, all of whom are trying to discover the secrets of the map, and so a race to reach the map’s destination kicks off.
Well, the first thing that needs to be said about The Good, The Bad, The Weird is the fact that the action never stops. Well, it does, but never for very long. What’s more, the action not only keeps going, but it escalates, and I can safely say that because of this, the film is an absolute riot to watch.
In terms of the action, it feels very much like a compilation of some the most entertaining action sequences seen in previous movies. The choreography of the stunts has the same refined grace of a good kung-fu movie, while The Weird’s almost fumbling attempts to avoid bandits and Japanese soldiers evoke a ton of Indiana Jones memories – indeed, one scene later in the movie where The Weird is being dragged through the desert behind a Japanese Jeep resembles a similar scene from Raiders Of The Lost Ark. And naturally, there are nods to its namesake The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, most notably in the Mexican standoff between the movie’s leads.
Of course, very few of the action sequences are particularly original, and if you’re not interested in watching non-stop action, the movie could become very tiresome. But for those who do love a good action movie, this is definitely one of the most entertaining I’ve seen. Clearly Kim loves his movies and this love has translated itself into a series of highly entertaining sequences. The movie sets out to thrill and it succeeds admirably. This was particularly true towards the end of the movie which involves a chase through the desert involving the title characters, The Bad’s gang, a groups of rival bandits and the entire Japanese army all racing for the prize, and it was a sequence I was genuinely stunned by.
The plot is mostly an excuse to blend all this action into a coherent whole, but it does a surprisingly good job. It’s nothing too intellectual – there’s a treasure map and people want it – but it’s filled with enough twists and turns to keep it entertaining, and not once did I question the direction it was heading. And for a plot that’s basically stitching together a bunch of set-pieces, that’s pretty damn good. I also highly approved of the big reveal of the treasure at the end of the movie. It was unexpected and hilarious in equal measure.
Oh yes, the movie also has plenty of comedic moments that add to the incessant fun. As well as the above twist, we have The Weird, a character who is a master thief despite his inherent clumsiness and slight stupidity, and his presence prevents the movie from taking itself too seriously.
I really wish I had more to criticise The Good, The Bad, The Weird for, but I really don’t. I genuinely had a lot of fun with this movie, and it just contributed to the already positive view I have of Korean cinema thanks to Oldboy. It’s a big, silly movie that hooks you in and keeps you smiling. You need to watch it!
Starring Song Kang-ho, Lee Byung-hun & Jung woo-sung
Written by Kim Ji-woon & Kim Min-suk
Produced by Kim Ji-woon & Choi Jae-won
Music by Dalparan & Jang Yeong-gyu
Cinematography by Lee Mo-gae
Edited by Nam Na-yeong
Favourite Scene: Did I mention that at one point The Weird gets chased by the ENTIRE JAPANESE ARMY? Oh, I believe I did.
Scene That Bugged Me: The Weird deals with two guys by inserting large objects into their rears. Played for laughs, but it came across as slightly juvenile.
Watch it if: You like your action with a side order of more action
Avoid it if: You want a musing historical drama piece on Manchurian history