For a couple of years now I've been pining to see a South Korean film titled "The Good, The Bad, The Weird" by famous Korean director Ji-woon Kim. After keeping an eye on the local art house theater it became obvious the film was never going to see even a limited release in the states. So I took matters into my own hands and "obtained" a copy of the flick this last weekend.
I'm a big fan of Sergio Leone's western films so the idea of a Korean remake of "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly" was instantly appealing. Leone was strongly influenced by Japanese master Akira Kurosawa, to the extent that Kurosawa actually sued Leone over "A Few Dollars More" because it was so clearly a remake of Kurosawa's samurai film "Yojimbo."
So we have Japanese cinema influencing an Italian director mixing that influence with Hollywood westerns and having that product being remade by a hot Korean director. How could you not want to see that?
Before I go any further- this is a great movie. You know the movie that "Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull" tried to be? A rollicking, action flick with kickass scenes that left your mouth gaping open at how cool they were? That's this movie instead.
The bare bones of the original are here. Instead of hidden confederate gold we have an unspecified treasure, the map to which every character in the movie is after. There are also secret personal scores, opposing armies (Japanese vs. Chinese Independence) and the famous three-way showdown at the climax.
There's also a hodgepodge of elements of other spaghetti westerns, martial arts flicks, Mad Max movies, the aforementioned Indiana Jones films and director Kim even riffs off his own films in a couple of scenes.
Woo-sung Jung - The Good
Woo-sung Jung plays the Clint Eastwood "Blondie" roll from the original film. He's a bounty hunter and a total badass with his Winchester repeating rifle.
Byung-hun Lee - The Bad
Byung-hun Lee plays the Lee Van Cleef roll of The Bad. He oozes charismatic evil. There is simply nothing that breathes and moves that he won't kill just for the hell of it.
Kang-ho Song - The Weird
As I understand it Kang-ho Song who plays The Weird in this movie is a comedic actor and it shows. He has several laugh out loud scenes, usually when someone is trying to kill him.
Just a quick note on a couple of incredible action scenes in this movie. The first is the opening train robbery scene. This thing is staged perfectly with the camera literally everywhere. This is the scene you'll hear most people talking about when they discuss this movie.
The scene that had me personally cheering was a chase/ action sequence at the end of the film involving at least two armies, several different groups of bandits and anyone else they they could think to throw into the mix that was as good, if not better, than anything CGI addicted Hollywood has produced in the last twenty years. Most remarkably it was done without the use of computers and through traditional stunt work. I wouldn't doubt for a second if stuntmen and horses were seriously hurt during the filming of this sequence.
I do have a few minor quibbles. There really isn't much story here other than the quest for the map. What story they do have is occasionally convoluted. But in the end the rest of the film is just so darned good it doesn't matter.
I give this film the Wormer seal of approval.
- Dean Wormer