'The Good, the Bad, the Weird': A recklessly filmed Korean Western
"The Good, the Bad, the Weird" is a too-long and recklessly filmed Korean action epic.
Special to The Seattle Times
'The Good, the Bad, the Weird,' with Jung Woo-sung, Lee Byung-hun, Song Kang-ho. Directed by Kim Jee-woon, from a screenplay by Kim Jee-woon and Kim Min-suk. 130 minutes. Not rated; contains intense action and comedic violence. In Korean with English subtitles. Varsity.
You could easily appreciate "The Good, the Bad, the Weird" for its wacky pleasures and leave it at that, but the film's popular director and co-writer, Kim Jee-woon, shouldn't get off that easily. If you're going to attempt an ambitious action epic, you'd better have the directorial chops to pull it off. Kim clearly doesn't.
This Western (Korea's star-studded box-office champ for 2008) could be lazily praised as "a marathon of nonstop, over-the-top action," but any honest assessment must also mention "astonishing stunt sequences filmed with breathtaking ineptitude."
And despite the title, this isn't a competent homage to Sergio Leone's spaghetti Western classic, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." Leone was a master of widescreen composition who framed every shot for maximum effect and storytelling efficiency. By comparison, Kim's delirious action sequences look like they were shot by adrenaline junkies with short attention spans.
The setting is Manchuria in the 1930s. The Japanese army, Manchurian gangsters and other battling factions are racing to find a map leading to Chinese treasure buried deep in the Manchurian desert.
The titular characters are exiled Koreans with conflicting agendas: The Good is Do-won (Jung Woo-sung), a bounty hunter hired by Korean freedom fighters to retrieve the map, which has fallen into the hands of Tae-goo (The Weird), a train robber with uncanny survival skills. The Bad is Chang-yi (Lee Byung-hun), a gunslinging bandit.
Admirers of Kim's previous films (including "A Bittersweet Life" and "A Tale of Two Sisters") might enjoy this grandiose mayhem, and not without reason: Hobbled with a disposable plot, the film's nonstop action is a bonus, and Kim's honorable avoidance of digital trickery means that every stunt was accomplished with genuine bravery in the old-school tradition of Hollywood legends like Yakima Canutt.
Kim's daring stunt team pays tribute to everything from "Stagecoach" to "Raiders of the Lost Ark," but their grand finale — a failed attempt to top "The Road Warrior" — is ruined by incompetent staging, camerawork and editing. 130 minutes of this is about 40 minutes too much.
Jeff Shannon: email@example.com