Review: The Good The Bad The Weird




Just when you’ve figured you’ve seen everything the western has to offer, along comes Korean filmmaker Kim Ji-woon to add a little spice and a lot of humour to this at times formalistic genre. Set in the 1930s amongst the deserts of Manchuria, The Good The Bad The Weird centers its story on an elusive treasure and the high in demand map that supposedly leads to it.  Byung-hun Lee stars as a hitman (The Bad) hired to steal the treasure map from the Japanese official in possession of it. While the hilarious Kang-ho Song plays a petty thief (The Weird) who the map comes to by chance and thus becomes the target of The Bad and his traveling gang of bandits. And finally, Woo-sung Jung is a bountyhunter (The Good) hot on the trail of The Bad and The Weird in an attempt to collect the bounties that are on both their heads.  One fateful day the Good, the Bad, and the Weird all cross paths aboard the train carry the map and adventure of The Good The Bad The Weird sets forth.

Dubbed a Kimchi Western, the first of its kind, based on the famous Korean dish whereby associating itself with the Spaghetti Westerns of old, The Good The Bad The Weird takes several of its components from past examples of the genre and the result is something entirely fresh and invigorating.  Essentially this is a two hour and ten minute rollercoaster ride from one great action sequence to another, from the all out train heist that opens the film to the jaw-dropping chase across the desert plains that ends it.  The final three-way gunslinging showdown that concludes the film, obviously reminiscent of the climax from Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly doesn’t come close to the tension and technique of the original, but that’s a tough act to follow given that scene is arguably one of the most acclaimed moments of the western genre.

Amid all the action, the film also adds a great sense of humour and that’s where the always hilarious when he wants to be, Kang-ho Song (Memories of Murder, The Host), comes in.  Whether he’s dancing around bullets in a deep-sea diving helmet or being chased on his scooter by the entire Japanese army, the noises he makes and his expressions on his face add a lot of humour to the already entertaining action sequences. In his role as the Bad, Byung-hun Lee would have made Lee Von Cleef proud with his ruthless performance, and Woo-sung Jung is perfectly adequate as the Good, though any comparisons to him and Eastwood’s Nameless would just be unfair to both parties.  There are other characters involved in the storyline of the film, to the point of nearly being absurd as the story grows far too complex for a western with all these different characters and affiliated gang members jockeying for possession of the map, but that being said The Good The Bad The Weird strives to entertain and in that end, it’s a success. Pass me another dish of Kimchi, I’m ready for seconds.

81/100 - Essentially this is a two hour and ten minute rollercoaster ride from one great action sequence to another.

Christopher Misch

I've always loved movies, but it wasn't until under the tutelage of Professor Garry Leonard at the University of Toronto that my passion for the industry became an understanding of an art form. With a specific fascination in both the western genre and Asian cinema in general, I am of the view that good movies are either enlightening or entertaining, and if you are truly lucky they are both.
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