The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008) • South Korea

My expectations for this film were through the roof. It's basically a Korean all-star game: directed by Ji-woon Kim, he of A Bittersweet Life and A Tale of Two Sisters fame (not to mention The Quiet Family), and starring three of Korea's finest (or at least most popular) actors, Woo-sung Jung, Byung-hun Lee, and (one of my favorite actors, Korean or otherwise) Kang-ho Song.

Unlike a number of people, I have absolutely nothing, in or on principle, against remakes. But this isn't a remake. Let's call it remake-esque. This one's got Weird, the other one had Ugly. And they do different stuff in this one, the treasure is different, and some other stuff is different, but the basic story arc is similar.

The production values are top notch, the direction creative and self-assured, the special effects worth the time and money spent on them. I love the kill scenes as directed by Kim, especially one of the first ones where a tough guy is running from train car to train car, bursting through doors like they don't exist and then BAM! He's five feet behind where he was. You have to see it to appreciate it, I guess. The timing and the focus on the result instead of the impact makes the impact seem more impactful. Whoever edited this film did a great job.

Woo-sung Jung plays the Good, and he's a cute guy who oozes goodness, so that's good. His character is perhaps a bit under-played/under-developed but that's the nature of Good, isn't it? Byung-hun Lee as the Bad has a little bit too much contemporary in his swagger and look. He's more arrogant than Bad, but we're supposed to dislike him so that's good too. Not surprisingly, it's Kang-ho Song, as the Weird, who steals the show. He runs through this movie like a poultry item (I can't remember if the saying is about a chicken or a turkey) with its head cut off but never misses a beat. He's having a good time and makes sure that we do too. He's able to do things that many other actors are incapable of like delivering predictable lines with equal parts sincerity and irony so that we won't even think of groaning out loud. He's so adorably slightly plump and likeable that even when ... well, I don't want to give it away ... we like him. We really do.

Caught up in all the fun and excitement I almost forgot that, with very few exceptions (especially in these modern times of technological machismo), movies with lots of gun fights are really fucking stupid.



  1. What would a western, even a far eastern western, be without a good gunfight or twenty? That's part of what I loved about this, the sheer kinetic joy of the action setpieces. I thought the clever touches were coming a mile a minute actually, and for my money this one put most of the action Hollywood has come out with recently to complete and utter shame. It had a real old fashioned sense of adventure, and they burned through an ass load of stuntmen to make it so it's our duty to enjoy it. I don't think The Good was as cool as Clint Eastwood nor The Bad as odious as Lee Van Cleef, but that's probably my most significant issue with the movie. It doesn't even really matter, because they did enough of their own thing that I wasn't bothered by comparisons.

  2. Nobody can touch Lee Van Cleef. I never thought about comparisons while watching this, it's so much of its own thing, but if I were to, I'd give the edge to weird over ugly. Kang-ho Song slays me.

    I used to be bored by gunfights. Now they make mad. A hundred bad guys with automatic weapons within ten feet of the good guy and they can't hit him but he's able to pick them off one at a time. It happens. "Taken" is a recent egregious laugher in this regard.

  3. Sounds really interesting. Bittersweet Life (the only movie that I've seen of this director) and the original Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western, are two of my favourite movies. I guess I have a special liking for anti-heroes. So I really got to see this movie, provided I can get hold of it.

    On a lighter note, I loved this line of yours - the impact makes the impact seem more impactful. :D

  4. I notice that horror doesn't seem to be a favorite genre of yours, Shubhajit, but if you were to partake, A Tale of Two Sisters by this director makes an awful lot of top ten best horror flicks of all time lists. I'm not recommending it, just pointing that out.

  5. "delivering predictable lines with equal parts sincerity and irony so that we won't even think of groaning out loud."

    Maybe it's because most irony in American movies (indies?) are delivered by hardened, cooler than thou cynics, that we forget how easy it is to flip the switch to some earnest sincerity, and still spout ironic comments on one's surroundings? i think comic persona that aren't hinged in cynicism do this frequently: chaplin, laurel, merry melody characters...but a lot of the times the most complex comedy are word-play, pun on subtext of words or the given situation (like early 90s stephen chow.) i think song's comic persona here is fairely consistent with his past work, just sped up a lot more like a roadrunner variation of his usual lovable, hulking peasant-type persona. what's visual and lovable is usually what translates the quickest across culture/language.