James Helsby

LRE #12: The Good, The Bad, The Weird

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In my mailbox this week:
The Good, The Bad, The Weird

Release Year: 2008
Staring: Kang-ho Song, Byung-hun Lee, Woo-sung Jung

Set in Manchuria, in a period shortly before World War 2; The Good, The Bad, The Weird follows the exploits of Park Do-won (aka  The Good) Park Chang-yi (aka The Bad) and  Yoon Tae-goo (aka The Weird) as they follow a treasure map, that ends up in the hands of ‘The Weird’.

Each has their own motives for finding what lies at the end of the map, but Do-won, Tae-Goo, and Chang-yi are also looking for each other; A vendetta to be settled.

The Good, a bounty hunter Park Do-won, happens across The Weird, Yoon Tae-goo, after The Weird robs a train. In transit, on this particular train, is a very important map. The map leads to some sort of treasure, of unknown value. Park Chang-yi was hired by the very man who put the map on the train, to steal it. But Tae-goo gets in the way, and makes off with the map before Chang-yi is able to get his hands on it.

Do-won, always looking for the best bounty, begins to fight with Chang-yi; looking to collect the bounty on ‘The Finger Chopper.’ But the opposition is great, and Do-won decides his best bet is to stick with Tae-goo and split the treasure between them.

So off they go.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird, is an interesting bridge into Korean cinema. Beautifully filmed in the deserts of China (above the Korean peninsula, an area formerly known as Manchuria) the landscapes shown are bleak and helpless, and grand. Growing up in the desert, I understand how an expanse of space can make you feel claustrophobic, but seeing some of the areas where this film was shot, gave me a new impression on space.

During one particularly important chase scene, we spend 20 minutes at a full horse-gallop, without having ever seen a background mountain, or even a hill. The landscape is just immense, and this scene really captures that sense of expansion. In many ways, I liken this to it’s progenitor, the American Western. During the periods of west-ward expansion, the ‘West’ was endless. Sure, we had already settles San Fransisco, but the distance between might as well have been infinite.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird really is an homage to the American Western, but has the interesting property of being a social commentary. When we finally reach the climax, which results in an epic gun battle, we close the movie with an event that I believe is more of a comment about the influence of China and the United States than anything else. Of course, I don’t want to ruin it for you.

It was an interesting film, but not one that I particularly enjoyed. It seemed to take a long time before we reached anything of true interest, plot-wise. The characters are great, but they are topical. There is a little bit of introspective into their lives, but that deals with just a single event, and is focused into the last 5 minutes of the show.

But does the last 5 minutes redeem the previous 125? Not really. If you like westerns, this is one to watch. But as I am no big fan of the western genre, I found it more interesting to have a look into the Korean cinema. Something that I haven’t done since ‘The Host’.

How much alcohol did it take: Yet another dry night, or better said, dry night(s).
Rating: 5/10. I really wanted to love this movie, and once I got into it, it was good. But it took a while for me to figure out what was going on. Of course, I watched it in native Korean, with subtitles, but it was still a little hard to follow at times.

The Wife’s Retort: After taking three tries to get through it, I was still confused at the end. But it has good fighting action and it was quite funny without crossing into silly.

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