The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008)
By: Julian on December 29, 2009  | 
Eastern Eye (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). Korean DD 5.1. English Subtitles. 124 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Kim Jee-Woon
Starring: Kang-Ho, Lee Byung-Hun, Jung Woo-Sung
Screenplay: Kim Jee-Woon, Kim Min-Suk
Country: South Korea
External Links
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When you read a title like The Good, the Bad, the Weird, you can't be blamed for being as confused as I was. It's an intriguing gimmick because it can go two ways: mindless parody, or a genuine bash at putting a new spin on the Leone Western model, blatantly lampooning the Italian maestro's films in title only (a la, say, Inglourious Basterds). The cover slick of this Madman disc seems to hint at the former ("forget the spaghetti western", it gleefully proclaims, "here comes the noodle western!") but I'm pleased to say that the latter is on the money: this is certainly a light piece of work, but it's a hyper-kinetic retooling of the Leone classic that can be judged on its own, plentiful merits.

The Good, the Bad, the Weird opens in Manchuria, circa 1930s, as a treasure map changes hands into those of a government operative. Said operative, a high ranking official at the Manchurian Imperial Bank, is taking a train across the country with a contingent of heavily armed bodyguards. The Bad (Lee Byung-Hun), a slick, suit-wearing bandit, is informed of the events and, accompanied by his posse of psychos, he is charged with reclaiming the map and following its path. When things are disturbed by the Weird (Song Kang-Ho), who is robbing the train and unwittingly happens upon the map, a fierce gunfight ensues and the Weird escapes from the frying pan and into the hands of the Good (Jung Woo-Sung), a bounty hunter who predictably cuts a very Clint-like figure. These events are all carefully scrutinised by a cavalry platoon of imperial soldiers, whose intention it is to wait for the titular three to battle it out before they retrieve the spoils.

I'm sure few would deny that The Good, the Bad, the Weird is at its best during action scenes. These sequences are tight and visually just remarkable, with the arid plateaus of 1930s Manchuria providing a fitting backdrop. Director Kim Jee-Woon is a talented visual stylist, having previously helmed A Tale of Two Sisters (a film I thought disappointed in every other respect) and the superb Bittersweet Life. I think it's safe to say that he does his best work here, with the set pieces truly a sight to behold: the bookending sequences on the train and on horseback are just rip-roaring action cinema and it's very slickly done, with Lee Mo-gae's cinematography fortunately not erring on the side of epilepsy – we move with the action, but Lee is well acquainted enough with stillness to make the spectacle quite refined and balletic. Perhaps not choreography in the same league as Peckinpah, but it's nevertheless highly commendable.

The Good, the Bad, the Weird's main faults lie in how the story is told. Kim Jee-Woon co-wrote with Kim Min-Suk and the screenplay feels padded. It may simply be because the action scenes are what really makes the movie, but story certainly felt as if it played second-fiddle to the picture's flashiness and, at 124 minutes, the film would have done well with a few snips. It's the only disappointment in store and, although it had the potential to be a similarly sweeping 180-minute epic as its source material, it stood no chance with these storytellers. They simply don't have the writing chops to pull that off, and the film occasionally feels laboured as it is.

But this is a minor gripe. The Good, the Bad, the Weird is audacious, bloody and blackly funny, with the action sequences far more exciting and visceral than anything Hollywood has had the gall to release in 2008. The narrative is a loving tribute to Sergio Leone, but stylistically The Good, the Bad, the Weird owes more to Sam Pecknipah: he would be proud of the beautifully shot and gleefully violent shenanigans at work here.
Presented immaculately in 2.35:1, with 16:9 enhancement.
One audio track in Korean, presented in Dolby 5.1. It's very good – dialogue is crisp and clear, and the action scenes don't make you jump to wildly turn down the sound. I thought the score, a fittingly operatic affair, worked well and was very impressive.
Extra Features
A 13-minute behind the scenes doco, 19-minutes worth of cast and crew interviews, a massive 44-minutes of deleted scenes, 3 alternate endings totalling 7-minutes and a theatrical trailer.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
I was very impressed by The Good, the Bad, the Weird. Kim Jee-Woon seemed thoroughly respectful of the film's influences and chose not to shamelessly ape the classics, and the international acclaim that this has received will surely affirm the South Korean director as a very important filmmaker. Whatever problems I have with the story were satisfactorily ameliorated by the superb direction and cinematography of the film's grandiose action set pieces.

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