An homage to Sergio Leone’s cinematic masterpiece, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Good, The Bad, and The Weird is a Korean Western set in Manchuria during the years of Japanese imperialism. Though the directors western pastiche may be insubstantial, it’s anything but a drag. It’s masterfully directed, legitimately funny, and thoroughly enjoyable even at an excessive long running time.
I really dug Ji-woon Kim’s horror flick Tale of Two Sisters, I couldn’t help but remain skeptical about the director’s ability to handle an action adventure film, let alone the western genre. Well, this is very rare, but I’m thrilled to say that I was totally wrong about everything. Song Kang Ho, whom I’ve loved since Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and The Host (which will both get the review treatment in the coming weeks) gives another great performance. The Good, the Bad, and the Weird is less remarkable as a western than as an action film. The title refers to three gunslingers, all after the same mysterious treasure map: “the Weird” is a klutzy crook who accidentally comes across the map during a train robbery; “the Bad” is a ruthless but insecure bandit; “the Good” is a bounty hunter. Unsure of each other’s motivations, the Good and the Weird team up to secure the map and reach the treasure site lest either the Bad or the imperialist Japanese beat them there.
The film has a lot of great aspects too it. Visually it’s shot to perfection, the colors are vibrant, the scenes are well lit, the landscapes are breath-taking. Also of note is the costume design. In terms of style, the film is outta this world. The action is choreographed to within an inch of its life and incorporates everything from classic western standoffs to fast paced sword play and Kung-Ku wire work. It’s also smart enough to pay respects to its Italian western predecessors while still adding its own unique Asian flavor to the genre.
The main gripe I had with this film is it’s too preoccupied with violence for violence’s sake to make it a compelling movie, so before the audience has time to feel any sort of tense atmosphere they’re interrupted by explosions, blood, and terrible sound effects. The ending could’ve been tighter and the script could have done with more tweaking but none of these things or the other missteps of the film took away from the energy of it. Slightly Recommended.