The Good, the Bad, the Weird
Dir: Kim Ji-woon
True to its title, The Good, the Bad, the Weird is a loving homage to Sergio Leone’s classic Western of a similar name. But in this case the story, which involves three characters searching for a hidden treasure and getting into battles, has been transported to the Manchurian desert. But to call this film a facsimile of Leone’s masterpiece would be both reductive and unfair to Kim Ji-woon’s vision.
Already pushing the envelope with its 132 minute runtime, The Good, the Bad, the Weird is a strange mélange of complicated action sequences, brutal violence and over the top comedy featuring three morally ambiguous characters. More than anything else, they are out for themselves. Much like Eli Wallach in Leone’s film, you can feel Kim Ji-woon is most interested in Yoon “the Weird” Tae-goo (Song Kang-ho). He is the first to get hold of the map (coincidentally during an extended train robbery sequence) and the rest of the film is more or less one long string of set pieces as Yoon Tae-goo tries to elude both Park “the Good” Do-won (Jung Woo-song) and Park “the Bad” Chang-yi (Lee Byung-hun). Whether that means dodge bullets in a brothel, run from the Japanese military or fend off opponents wearing a diving helmet, Yoon Tae-goo spends a good deal of time running for his life while clinging onto the map.
There is a gleeful nihilism that hangs over the film, as any character can be potential fodder for the veritable hail of bullets that fly about. The Spaghetti Western has always been about amorality, and The Good, the Bad, the Weird fits snugly into that definition. During one of the film’s few lulls, the Good and the Weird discuss how they will use the money when they uncover the treasure. While a brief scene, this moment is really the only character development we get.
The Good is by far the least developed of the three. Much like Clint Eastwood’s Blondie, the term “good” can only loosely be applied to Park Do-Won, especially when he too covets the map for personal gain. Maybe something is lost in translation but Eastwood treads on his star power in Leone’s film, yet Jung Woo-song is not a widely known actor in the States. It is almost impossible not to cheer if Yoon Tae-goo, if anyone, in this film.
Unfortunately, the glorious excesses that make The Good, the Bad, the Weird, so good and weird, also have a deadening effect. Some of the chase scenes drag on forever, the electric joy drained away as the movie approaches its second hour. It is easy to tune out and not care about the characters as set pieces and operatic action are clearly the main thrust here. The only real tension that exists here is not who will get the treasure, but what is the treasure? I can tell you, the journey is almost always more satisfying than the end result.
by David Harris