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Korean film-Asian western by Kim Jee-Woon (director of A Tale of Two Sisters)

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One Map, Three Villains--WINNER TAKES IT ALL!

  • Mar 15, 2009

Small wonder that after director Kim Jee-Woon's magnificent "A Tale of Two Sisters" and the terrific "A Bittersweet Life" that his next film would be so eagerly anticipated. "The Good, The Bad, The Weird" has won numerous awards in Asia, it is South Korea's highest grossing film in 2008 and has been selected for the Cannes film festival. I've said before that an Asian western isn't exactly an original concept; there was a video game called "Western Samurai", the Hong Kong produced "Peace Hotel" and most recently, Takashi Mike's "Sukiyaki Western Django" from Japan. Well, it seems like South Korea won't be left behind and with Kim Jee-Woon at the helm, expectations are rather high and the man doesn't disappoint.

A two-bit bumbling crook named Tae-Goo "The Weird" (Song Kang-Ho, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the Host) robs a train only to unintentionally make off with a Quing Dynasty treasure map. Everyone wants this map; the Japanese army, the Korean independence group as well as a lot of shady characters. On Tae-goo's tail is a relentless killer named Park Chang-Yi "The Bad" (Lee Byung-Hyun, A Bittersweet Life) who is also after the map and has a seemingly personal reason as to why he wants Tae-Goo's head on a plate. In hot pursuit for both of them is a bounty hunter named Park Do-Won (Jung Woo-Sung, The Restless) who can do nicely with the bounty for Chang-Yi's capture or the treasure itself. Now, these three men are on a collision course--who would win out in the end?

4 ½- Stars: One Map, Three Villains--WINNER TAKES IT ALL!

Kim Jee-Woon's "The Good the Bad the Weird" is an extremely well-made film and is a highly entertaining genre-busting affair. This chaotic period similar to the wild west in America, a Machuria-set "kimchi" western (as opposed to "spaghetti" or "sukiyaki") is a melting pot of all things awesome about westerns and looks like a homage to Sergio Leone's "spaghetti westerns". There's a train heist, lots of shoot-outs in a small town and cool characters. You'll see bits and pieces of "The Good the Bad and the Ugly" (so obvious with the film's title), "A Fistful of Dollars" and even Miike's "Sukiyaki Western Django". The film has a very large budget and it shows, the film is exquisitely shot and the superb style and camerawork reminded me of Ryuhei Kitamura (Azumi). Director Kim definitely knows his stuff in style and with the film's intriguing concept, Asian and Korean cinema fans have reason to see this film, and it is definitely something that a "solid" Asian film fan just can't miss.

            the 'good'

The film's set designs and architecture maintain some of that "dynasty-era" Korean period but it does have a strong touch of the old west. It has some rather creative touches; there is some swordplay, knives used with brutality, there's a big guy with a huge hammer, a "sleeping Buddha" under construction, rifles with telescopes, motorcycles and jeeps, saloons and more--all these contribute to the film's "mixing of genres" style. Director Kim also seems to be having a lot of fun with the film, as he never forgets his touches of humor to help the film's pace and his stunning camerawork which proves to be the film‘s showstopper. Explosions and gunfire are aplenty; highlights include a very cool gunfight in a small town and a long chase sequence with the ensembled cast supported by hundreds of extras. I've read that Kim actually had cameramen hanging on wires to shoot the desert scenes--Kim Jee-Woon's talent shines through. 

The action scenes are very exciting and exquisitely executed. It looks like director Kim took some pointers from Ryuhei Kitamura because they are just so full of "coolness" that can make action scribe John Woo a little jealous. Kim avoids the use of computer-generated trickery but instead depends on elaborate stunts and camera trickery in the action scenes; there is some CGI enhancements but they're mostly for the set designs. Ok, so some scenes required a large suspension of disbelief, I rather found Jung Woo-Sung's Do-Won's skills with a gun a little too over-the-top especially when he engages a large number of the Japanese army. He never even gets grazed by a bullet so either Do-Won is unbelievably good or these guys just supremely suck. But hey, this is a minor complaint, after all I don't think this film was meant to be taken seriously and more of a homage film. Hey, please take note that Kim doesn't hold back with the blood--and the way he executes it kept the film from having too much of that "comic bookish" feel. There is also a legend of a certain "Finger chopper" that gives some surprises and I felt that the screenplay played its cards well. 

                Lee Byung Hyun    

Song Kang-Ho's Tae-Goo arguably steals the show and proves to be the film's most interesting character--the actor also proves as to why he is one of South Korea's most sought after performers. The man can act in almost any film I've seen that further cements his reputation in versatility. Lee Byung Hyun does have the most intense presence onscreen, his character along with Song Kang-Ho's Tae-goo are the kind of characters that can elevate the film into "cult status". Jung Woo-Sung's "the Good" character feels a little too cool and lacks precision, but the actor does do the best with what he has. Still, the three popular actors mesh very well and has dynamic chemistry. Oh, the women are also great-looking and serves to titillate the male audience.

"The Good, The Bad, The Weird" is a very polished film that lived up to my expectations. The film's plot isn't too deep, but the film's "wow" factor is just so incredibly impressive that I can look pass the very simple plot which makes it essentially a chase film. It is a solid film, that exudes popcorn entertainment but its characters do carry much of the film's weight. It may be a little too pre-occupied in becoming captivated with itself but its small flaws aren't really worth to nitpick. The film is an action-packed affair that action junkies will never become bored--as for the rest, they can find something else to like in the film--its characters, style and performers will definitely impress. I'm happy to say that Kim Jee-Woon's film lived up to the hype.

Highly Recommended! [4 ½- Out of 5 Stars]

Note: The 3-disc Korean region-3 release has both the theatrical uncut Korean version and the International version which may arguably be a better paced, leaner film. The Korean cut has more development to Tae-goo's character and some extra scenes in the end. Luckily both versions are available in the Korean dvd release.


3-disc Korean dvd The Good The Weird The Bad promo poster Lee Byung Hyun the bad the 'good' poster 4 ½- Stars: One Map, Three Villains--WINNER TAKES IT ALL! 4 ½- Stars: One Map, Three Villains--WINNER TAKES IT ALL! 4 ½- Stars: One Map, Three Villains--WINNER TAKES IT ALL! 4 ½- Stars: One Map, Three Villains--WINNER TAKES IT ALL!

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April 25, 2012
You've convinced me. Thank you for another terrific recommendation, which I'm eager to follow. Well done.
January 20, 2013
seen it yet?
December 05, 2010
Yes indeed good Sir, loved this flick. There is another one kinda like this that I have seen but the name escapes me right now, when I remember I'll let you know and see if you have seen it. [I am sure you have]
December 06, 2010
are you talking about PEACE HOTEL with Chow Yun Fat or Miike's SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO? I bet you are...
November 04, 2009
Wow! I LOVED Take Of Two Sisters so it should be interesting if nothing else to see what Jee-Woon does with this film. I see some copies on ammie but I'm hearing how badly the quality is. Hmm, wonder if Tartan or some other company will pick this up soon for distribution before some American baboon decides to re-make it. Stimulating review man! Thumbs up!
November 04, 2009
Not to worry, bro. This is scheduled for an American release from FOCUS pictures. The Malaysian version is actually uncut (although I prefer the shorter Cannes version) and available at hkflix.com and it has good quality. Of course the pricey Korean version is now rare. Thanks, man. Make sure you check out RINGU if you haven't already.
November 05, 2009
Oh, if you like Kim Jee-Woon, check out his 2nd film...(this is his 3rd movie) http://www.lunch.com/reviews/UserReview-A_Bi...Looked_this_DAMNED.html
November 05, 2009
Thanks! I will have to check that out sometime. I still watch the two-disc version of A Tale Of Two Sisters quite a bit so it would be awesome to see some of his other works too. Thnks again Woo!
November 03, 2009
Sounds like an interesting movie. My favorite western of all time is actually "the good, the bad, and the ugly". I guess I have to give this a try when I reactivate my netflix account. Nice writeup as always man.
November 04, 2009
Thanks, man. You will love this if you like Leone's westerns and Sukiyaki Western Django.
November 05, 2009
Yea, I'm sure I will. One of my friends just informed me that he's watched it before too and highly recommended to me as well. I will check it out and let you know what I think of it when I do.
November 05, 2009
hkflix.com-the Malaysian release is uncut and cheap! Avoid the copies from Red Sun.
March 18, 2009
I never cared much for westerns and I liked the spaghetti westerns even less- but I think I'm finally beginning to find the genre appealing.
March 19, 2009
Thanks, Karen. I've always liked westerns, but I have to admit it had a major "falling out" and it's only been very recently that it started staging a comeback.
March 21, 2009
I can count the westerns I've liked and have a couple fingers left over. Let's se; Russell Crowe's 3:10 TO YUMA, THE UNFORGIVEN (Burt Lancaster), LONELY ARE THE BRAVE (Kirk Douglas), THE MAGNIFICSNT SEVEN, well, I guess I have a whole hand left over.
March 26, 2009
March 26, 2009
More The Good The Bad The Weird reviews
review by . December 11, 2010
posted in ASIANatomy
*** out of ****      There are times while watching films that I can live with killing a few brain cells, as long as the movie I am watching isn't particularly insulting to my intelligence. I say this because no matter how ridiculous it sounds, that is very much possible. There have been films which I enjoyed watching for nothing more than some damn good entertainment, and "The Good, the Bad, and the Weird" is most definitely one of those films. I can't call …
review by . April 15, 2012
posted in ASIANatomy
         TRAILER         THE GOOD THE BAD THE WEIRD      I have to say that this may be one of my favorite movies in recent memory. I have had this film since its release and first heard about it from Young William of Woopak the Great. I have been meaning to write this review since the film's release but I could never do the movie justice. Now if you have yet to see this movie I highly recommend it. Some people …
Quick Tip by . April 15, 2012
posted in ASIANatomy
Everyone that I have shown this to have loved the flick. In fact people that I convinced to watch this on Netflix ending up liking it so much they went out to buy it. The DVD/Blu-Ray comes with all kinds of great special features so I really do recommend buying this. So with all that said I say check this flick out right now, you may not love it like I do but I am sure you will like it.
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William ()
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This film is the highest grossing film in South Korea in 2008. Won 8 Korean film awards and has been selected in the Cannes film festival. It is also scheduled for an early U.S. release by CJ Entertainment. 

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