Sunday, 25 July 2010

Quick review movie - The Good, the Bad, the Weird (Kim Jee-Woon, 2008)

Quick reviews are reserved for movies that I feel do not deserve 1000+ words but are still worth a mention

Occupied Mandchuria, 1930s. In an office, The Bad (Park Chang-yi, played by Lee Byung-Hun), a ruthless criminal for hire, is asked to steal back a mysterious map handed over to a Japanese official. He attacks the train in which the official travels but, unbeknownst to him, another man, the Weird (Yoon Tae-goo, played by Song Kang-ho), has taken the map with him after an attempted robbery which takes a bloody turn. All that under the watchful eye of the Good (Park Do-won, played by Jung Woo-sung) who happened to be on the train and who has a keen interest in the bounty placed on the Bad's head. The Weird manages to escape the mayhem in and around the train and makes a run for it with the help of his friend Man-gil (Ryoo Seung-soo) with the Good, the Bad and a group of Mandchurian bandits hot on his heels. Having reached the Ghost Market (effectively a black market), Tae-goo and Man-gil try to figure out what the document is all about. While they come to the realization that this must be a treasure map, their pursuers, soon to be joined by the Imperial Japanese Army are closing on on them....

Of course, The Good, the Bad, the Weird owes its name to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly but shouldn't be mistaken for a remake of the latter, which it definitely isn't: what it is in fact is an attempt to use the western genre's principles and codes, drop them in a Korean cultural and (more or less) historical context and sprinkle it with a good dose of tongue-in-cheek. The result? A movie that looks absolutely stunning at all levels (big thumbs up to the cinematographer, the costumes and set designers) and really deserves to be seen in the best possible definition. However, it's also a movie that, despite an amount of backstabbing that would have made Catherine de Medici proud, actually relies on one of the thinnest plots I've seen in a long time and the fact that it was deliberate (something the director is quick to admit in one of the many bonus features found on the Blu-ray European release) does not make it ok. There's actually a whole twenty minutes near the end which are completely devoid of plot - but it is also one hell of a pursuit in the desert and in the end the breakneck pace, the visual quality and the performance of Song Kang-ho, who plays the Weird (and whom you may have seen previously in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance or more recently in The Host) are enough to make this movie highly enjoyable, if not memorable