Anime Reporter heads to the wild wild East for cowboy style antics in 1930’s Asia. The Good, The Bad, The Weird is a Korean tale of three men who are pretty neatly summed up in the film’s title.
It all starts with a map. A map and a plan. A map and a plan and a deal and a train. Park Chang-yi, (played by Lee Byung-hun), can generally be considered to fulfil the role of The Bad. A dead-eyed hitman, and a particular skilled, if nasty one, Chang-yi is on the hunt for a map which his employer sold but would like back. Things would have gone fairly smoothly if not for the intervention of the very, very weird Yoon Tae-goo, (played wonderfully by Thirst’s Song Kang-ho). Tae-goo is a clumsy but efficient robber who just happened to hold up the inhabitants of the wrong train carriage minutes before Chang-yi and his men make their move. As the bullets fly, the weird Tae-goo takes the opportunity to flee while the other passengers tend to mostly end up dead. Tae-goo is spotted fleeing by a lot of important people, most of whom figure out that he has the map. Among them is Park Do-won, (played by Jung Woo-sung), the Good. Do-won is a skilled bounty hunter with a passion for justice, particularly if it pays.
The three men take the centre stage in their individual quests to either track down the map, track down the treasure or track down the other two men for the prices on their heads. The Weird wastes little time in spilling the beans and soon every outlaw and mercenary within a hundred miles is on the hunt for him, with everyone assuming that the map leads to big treasure. The action is absolutely marvellous and very much over the top, not a thousand miles away from Pirates of the Caribbean, but much more intelligently executed. The Bad’s action scenes tend to be bloody with a lot of quick and vicious blade-work, while the Weird spends more than a little time coming across as incompetent, but charmingly so. The Good is as direct and keen-eyed as the Bad but without his sadistic nature. He doesn’t make for a terribly interesting character to watch, fulfilling all of the straight-laced law-enforcer roles of a typical hero while the comedic moments of the Weird make him the clear candidate for audience favourite and protagonist.
The storyline doesn’t evolve much beyond the premise and there aren’t a lot of moments for characters to grow beyond their set identities. This is not a film of heartbreak, redemption or glory, but it is a hell of a lot of fun. It’s well paced, keeping high levels of energy and a strong mix of comedy and action for over two hours. There might even be one or two surprises along the way, so it’s worth watching closely.
The Good, The Bad, The Weird is currently available on DVD from Icon. The two disc special edition comes with a Making Of, Interview with director and cast, Behind the Scenes extras as well as an alternate ending which is definitely worth a look. For more information, you can check out the Icon website.
85% – “Wonderful” – The Good, The Bad, The Weird is everything a cowboy movie should be. With a top notch cast and excellently executed action scenes and humour, there should be something here for everyone.