FILM : Review - The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008)


Pure maniacal fun.

Those are probably the most accurate words to describe Kim Ji-Woon's The Good, The Bad, The Weird (TGTBTW), an obvious homage to Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad and The Ugly but smart enough to pay respects to its Italian spaghetti western predecessors while mixing it with its own unique Asian flavor to the genre. It's masterfully directed, damn funny and most importantly thoroughly enjoyable (at 129 minutes!).

The story of TGTBTW is actually very simple. The film is set in 1930's Manchuria and the title refers to three Manchurian gunslingers, all after the same mysterious treasure map (a Mcguffin - much like the briefcase in QT's Pulp Fiction).

In the first of many references to Sergio Leone's masterpiece, the film trio is introduced one at a time : The Weird (Song Kang-ho) is a klutzy thief and who accidentally comes across the map during the opening train robbery scene. The Bad is a ruthless bandit (Lee Byung-hun) and The Good is a bounty hunter and sharpshooter (Jung Woo-sung). Unsure of each other personal motivations, The Good and The Weird team up to secure the map and reach the treasure site before either The Bad or the imperialist Japanese beat them there. In other words, the whole movie is a damn big chase sequence, like a more violent and stylish version of Wacky Races.

In true Leone fashion, the movie boils down to a succession of set-pieces -wide-open plains and deserts, train robberies, gun battles, knife fights, opium dens, horse chases and tense Mexican stand-offs - but Ji-woon, a master at mood manipulation, (as witnessed on his previous films, A Bittersweet Life and A Tale Of Two Sisters) once again delivers a genre-busting film, with moments of extreme sadistic violence are mixed with comedy and action, and grand action set-pieces played with calmer character driven drama.


While the film may be lacking in plot (unnecessary subplot involving Russian mobsters) and story depth, it is indeed a very stylish eye-candy. The action is beautifully choreographed and incorporates everything from classic Mexican standoffs to fast paced swordplay and Kung-fu wire work. I guarantee you will enjoy the opening train robbery scene and the very elaborate and completely ridiculous jeep-horse chase sequence across the desert that's like a Guy Ritchie film meets The Road Warrior. It's exciting, funny and entertaining as hell!

Chemistry among the three lead actors are great. Lee Byung-hun, much like Lee Van Cleef's Angel Eyes is decent as an insecure bandit with the typical Korean sadistic gangster mentality that we all love from Korean gangster flicks. Least developed of the three, is Jung Woo-sung, gracefully playing a cool and calm bounty-hunter reminisce of Clint Eastwood's Blondie. But the heart and soul of the movie is Song Kang-ho, in a very commanding comedic performance evoking Eli Wallach's Tuco. It comes as no surprise that all three of the lead actors were nominated in the 3rd Asian Film Awards (full nominees list here).


Kudos also should be given to the musical score, riffing on Latin rhythms and brass orchestration, along with heavy Asian percussion. One scene in mind is during the thrilling climax, the wild percussion-heavy music starts to morph into Nina Simone's 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood'. Pure brilliance.

TGTBTW is not the first 'oriental Western' (as it bills itself on closing credits). Last year, Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django is a perfect example of genre-busting J-Western, and Chinese director He Ping already had a crack at a C-Western with Sun Valley. But then again, the original spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s were partly inspired by Japanese samurai movies, anyway. Some people may suggest that this movie has bitten off more than it can chew for what is essentially an old-school chase movie. Some may call it a ridiculous, silly movie. Well, it is... but it's the most amazing, incredible silliness I've ever seen in a long time.

9 comments:

  1. Nazim Masnawi said...
     

    Oi, babi! Kau tgk dulu!

  2. Edd Vedder said...
     

    kau tahu, brapa lama aku tunggu subtitle english dia nak release.. Once dapat tahu dah ada online.. terus rembat.

    dude, kena tengok. aku tak sure kau akan suka ke tak.. but aku guarantee it will be fun.

  3. Nazim Masnawi said...
     

    "aku tak sure kau akan suka ke tak.."

    Tak kisahlah, aku fucking suka Bittersweet Life tahap karma, man! One of the better revenge films out there (albeit tak seasli mana. Bygkan Le Samourai meets Taxi Driver.)

    Ei, apa cara aku nak dpt terus drpd kau, hah? I mean, hari ni.

  4. Edd Vedder said...
     

    aku leh burnkan utk kau.. kalau nak hari ni, datang ofis aku.. atau rumah aku. bleh?

    Kalau nak besok, aku leh pos ekspresskan je.

  5. Nazim Masnawi said...
     

    My God, filem ni punyalah best sampai aku tak tau nak tulis apa dekat sini.

    Pendek kata you're right all along. Tapi yang aku respek adalah kemampuan Ji-Woon untuk maintain dia punya action scene despite its limited budget. Kejar-mengejar masa dekat gurun last sekali tu is the best.

    After some build-up, Jung Woo-sung muncul dan take the soldiers one by one... man, one of the most engaging battle scene I have ever seen since Battle of the Pelennor Field in ROTK.

    Kepada yang belum tgk filem ni, nope, I'm not exaggerating. Watch this film. ASAP!

  6. Edd Vedder said...
     

    sial.. aritu cakap nak dvd crita ni dari aku.. tiba2 dah tengok plak.

    I'm glad u like it dude.. Tapi kau ada rasa mcm the three-way mexican standoff tu , deus ex-machina ke? Aku taklah rasa mcm tu tapi just nak tahu opinion kau..

    untuk yg belum tgk, walaupun kau org semua rasa mcm 'wei.. panjangnya crita ni. Gila apa aku nak baca subtitles lama2 mcm ni..!'.. cukup kalau kau tengok chasing scene dekat gurun yg dalam 20 minit tu. Scene tu aja dah worth every single minute of your time.

  7. Nazim Masnawi said...
     

    "Tapi kau ada rasa mcm the three-way mexican standoff tu , deus ex-machina ke?"

    Aku rasa tak. Aku rasa kita sbg penonton dah expect akan berlaku three way macam ni (or maybe less). Dia cuma tak been properly built up dan kurang tensionnya sampai kita tak aching for that to happen.

    After all the gurun scene, aku nampak adegan ni agak anti-klimaks (dan tad too long). Bygkan kalau Peter Jackson masukkan bab The Scouring of the Shire ke dalam ROTK. Gila busan!

    Oh, dan berckp tentang filem Peter Jackson tu, TGTBTW foists an ROTK-beating series of faux endings dekat kita. Aku rasa kalau tengok wayang ni, mau dah bengkak-bengkak ginjal.

  8. Edd Vedder said...
     

    "Dia cuma tak been properly built up dan kurang tensionnya.."

    - Setuju. Mungkin jugak sbb it happens right after the long chase scene, jadi sedikit anti-klimaks.

    BTW, aku suka that little twist about Song Kang-ho punya character. Aku rasa scene tu perlu utk establish ke badass-an character dia.

    Aku rasa kalau tengok wayang ni, mau dah bengkak-bengkak ginjal.

    - aku harap sangat filem ni masuk wayang.. aku nak experience cerita ni dekat layar. Sure gempak..

  9. Nazim Masnawi said...
     

    "Aku rasa scene tu perlu utk establish ke badass-an character dia."

    Yeap, sbb masa awal2 aku agak pelik karakter cemerkap* macam dia agak know his shit dan lazimnya in his element.

    Cuma aku tertanya-tanya sama ada diri dia dulu dan sekarang the same person ke or dah lain. Sbb he looks kinda serious dan in control masa scene flashback tu.

    Time for the good ol' prequel I think.

    *Holy shit, aku actually used that word!

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