Monday, September 2, 2013

Movie #209: The Good The Bad The Weird

The Good, The Bad, The Weird is a bizarre Korean film, obviously inspired by The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Like that movie, it stars a trio of tough guys in a desert searching for a MacGuffin.

The Weird is Yoon Tae-goo (Kang-ho Song), a thief who shoots his way into a train car containing a Japanese official (this is in Manchuria, during the 30s) and steals a map purportedly leading to treasure. Unfortunately for him, Park Chang-yi, the Bad (Byung-hun Lee) is also after the map, and cheerfully kills everyone in his way to get it. And also in pursuit is the Good, Park Do-won (Woo-sung Jung), a bounty hunter actually after a criminal known as Finger-Chopper - he believes Chang-yi is his man.

Tae-goo flees with the map, and heads to the Ghost Market, where he attempts to get a translation. He manages, with the help of his friend Man-gil (Seung-su Ryu), but Chang-yi and his gang show up, kill Man-gil, and drive Park and Yoon into further misadventures. They wind up captured, separated, chatting about their lives and dreams, and eventually the Japanese army (also chasing the treasure) follow them out into desert. Lots of explosions and death later, we wind up at the treasure...which seems to be a big hole in the ground with something foul-smelling in it.

The three men confront one another, and Yoon turns about to be fact, he chopped off Chang-yi's finger some time back. They all three shoot one another, but unlike The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, they all do get shot (though only Chang-yi is obviously killed). And then the "treasure" is revealed - oil erupts from the ground.

In the credits, it's revealed that Do-won and Yoon survived, and Good is now hunting Weird, but there's apparently an original version where everyone dies.

The movie feels very much like a Western, but with some Asian shifts to the tone. It feels lighter in some ways than Leone's film, but then Yoon kills dudes with spikes to the rectum, and you're left kind of going, "wha?" There's also some wirework on literal wire (rope, really), which is a nice touch.

The fashions, too, are all over the place. The Good is dressed in a manner reminiscent of Eastwood, but the Bad is in a slick, black suit and the Weird is in aviator goggles. Horses, sure, but also jeeps and motorcycles, and gattling guns as well as swords and knives. There's obviously a lot of context that I miss because I'm not Korean, but the movie feels pulp in some ways, and I appreciate that.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Good Night and Good Luck