The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008)

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Kim Ji-Woon's exuberant "kimchee Western"

Jan 9, 2011 (Updated Jan 10, 2011)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

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Pros:action, comedy, bonus features

Cons:10-20 minutes too long (at 130, which is 9 less than Korean release)

The Bottom Line: They make 'em like they used to (in spaghetti westerns, that is): violent, mordant humor, action-packed, and too long


Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

Kim Ji-Woon's 2008  Korean western "The Good the Bad the Weird" echoes more than the title of the most famous spaghetti western, especially the final “Mexican standoff” confrontation and some close-ups of eyes. The “good” (Jung Woo-Sung, The Warrior, Daisy) is a mysterious cowboy-hatted bounty-hunter who has much less screen-time than Clint Eastwood did. The bad one (Lee Byung-Hun, Bittersweet Life), whose hair usually blocks his right eye, is also quite weird and the  exuberant weird one (Song Kang-Ho, The Host, Thirst) , who races across the desert on a motorcycle with an empty sidecar,   could compete for the “bad” designation.

I have no idea what Weird is doing on a train at the start. Bad is after a treasure map that Weird lifts after shooting everyone in a private railroad car as Bad’s gang stops the train. Weird escapes, while Good and Bad shoot rifles at each other from the engine and a carriage window.

None of the three, nor a gang of Chinese-speaking raiders nor a detachment of the Japanese army knows what the treasure is, but there is a lot of hot pursuit, a very elaborate shootout in a thieves’ market town, an extended chase across the desert mixing horseback, motorcycle, and proto-jeeps. The Wild West antics are set in Manchuria sometimes during the mid-1930s. Japan annexed Korea earlier, so Korean adventurers/outlaws operated in the Japanese puppet-state of Manchukuo (though filmed in western China).

Supposedly, there is no CGI work. Good does not fly on invisible wires and the actors did most of the stunts under adverse conditions (sandstorms, etc.). The DVD includes director and stars interviews, the Cannes appearance, and 20 minutes of the film-making (along with two shorter, promotional ones) that I found more interesting than the movie/ Though I thought the movie was too long (particularly the everyone chasing Weird through the desert, while Good picks off Japanese soldiers sequence) the movie, especially Weird’s goofy derring-do, was entertaining—and Song Kang-Ho is very handsome despite his hairstyle; Jung Woo-Sung more conventionally so. I’m not sure which of the three lead characters is more ruthless.

Kim and his stars all refer to the movie as “family entertainment.” Especially the opening slaughter of most everyone who was on the train contains much graphic violence. Violence in Korean crime, horror, and war movies is often very graphic, and perhaps South Korean children are even more desensitized by screen violence than American ones. Yes, much of it is cartoonish, but some made me shudder.

BTW, the Korean ending follows the start of the closing credits. The music by Dalparan and Jang Yeong-Gyu is an homage to Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western scores with enhanced percussion.


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD

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