Name: The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008)
IMDb: link to The Good The Bad The Weird page
|image courtesy of The Movie Database (TMDb)|
Jung Woo-Sung as Park Do-won (the Good), Lee Byung-hun as Park Chang-yi (the Bad), Kang-ho Song as Yoon Tae-goo (the Weird).
Directed by: Kim Jee-woon. Written by: Kim Jee-woon, Min-suk Kim.
The initial tableaux:
This motion picture is set in 1930s Manchuria, traditionally part of China, but occupied by Japanese armed forces at the time. The three protagonists are Koreans who have some connection to Korean independence, however weak this connection might be. The Good is a bounty hunter of considerable skill and experience. The Bad is a gang leader capable of endless (and often fortuitous) violence. The Weird appears to be a bumbling bandit who succeeds only by serendipity.
Like a typical James Bond film, the opening is a manic short in its own right, followed by a calmer, longer, deeper depiction of the issues hinted at in the short. In this case, the film opens at the home of a rich Chinese man, who has an obligation to a man in the Japanese power structure. The map is sent to even things up. However, the Chinese fellow hires The Bad to steal the map back. We jump forward in time to a speeding train.
The Weird decides to rob the train, and starts his robbery slightly ahead of The Bad. By accident, he finds the train car with the Japanese delegation who have the map, plus various other valuables. While rifling through luggage, the Weird barely gets to the map when The Bad's gang engages the train with its full attack.
Just about every train robbery cliche follows, as does the arrival of The Good. The Weird gets away from The Good and The Bad, which sets up the rest of the film.
Delineation of conflicts:
The film is about the map. It begins with the map, and ends with the map. Everything in between is about the pursuit and acquisition of the map, plus finding the map's destination. There is some value attached to the map, since the Japanese army wants it, as do monied interests in China and Japan, as well as bandit gangs and freelance thieves.
The Good and The Bad follow The Weird. Alliances come and go. Betrayals arise and damage is taken.
Resolution: The dialectic of conflicts ends late in the film.
The end sequence runs like the Keystone Kops set in the desert, only with one thousand times better production values. The three protagonists outrun, outgun, or evade other gangs, Japanese army elements, and each other until only the three are left. They find their target in the map, then they deal with each other.
One line summary: Fine western film set in 1930s Manchuria.
Cinematography: 10/10 Excellent camera work, whether it be vast expanses of desert, tight shots of fights in cityscapes, horses versus motorcycles, moving trains, or quiet interviews in a wealthy man's opulent house.
Sound: 6/10 Dialog was in Korean, Mandarin, and Japanese. I relied on the sub-titles. Musical accompaniment was appropriate, but not quite the asset it might have been.
Acting: 9/10 The three lead actors were quite engaging. They (or their doubles) show considerable athletic skill, plus fine weapons expertise. Several segments were done at breakneck speeds, and everyone seemed up to the task. Quiet interpersonal scenes were done well.
Screenplay: 8/10 This could be considered an alternate take on the iconic film The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966). There were parallels, but this is a very Asian film. At 130 minutes, the film is a bit long, but the humour and the action make the minutes melt away.
Final Rating: 8/10