It’s always enjoyable when a film takes a simple idea and makes it so complex for the characters involved that their lives are thrown completely out of whack, yet it all remains incredibly amusing and easy to follow for the viewer.
This is the case with Kim Jee-woon’s Korean western, The Good, The Bad, The Weird (an obvious homage to Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly), where the three central characters, Park Do-won (The Good, played by Jung Woo-sung), Park Do-won (The Bad, played by Lee Byung-hun), and Yoon Tae-goo (The Weird, played by Song Kang-ho) become intertwined in a battle over what is said to be the Qing Dynasty treasure map. That’s the basic premise of the film, though there’s so much more actually involved in the story, as each have their own reasons for following the map that are revealed throughout the journey.
Not forgetting to throw in complexities, along with the main three characters, there are others who learn about this fabled map and want to get their hands on it as well. There’s the Ghost Market gang, who basically control the black market of the area, and with the film being set in 1930’s Manchuria, where the Japanese were vying for control of Korea, the Japanese army is in the hunt for the map as well.
The three main characters, being played by three of South Korea’s best actors, are all incredibly unique, and perfectly executed. I’ll refer to them through their titles to make it a bit easier to distinguish who I’m talking about in the review. The Good is a Korean bounty hunter, who is always looking to make money, but also does the right thing as well. He’s the heroic character of the film, and it shows in all his scenes. The Bad is a pure, cold-blooded killer, as he’ll take out anyone who opposes him, disrespects him, or stands in the way of something he wants. Nobody is off-limits in his mind.
The Weird is a small time crook, who seems to have nothing but dumb luck on his side. He’s able to escape situation after situation simply by everything somehow going his way. He’s the comedy relief of the film, as shown in one scene where his friend tells him what they’re offering for his capture, “The reward on your head is 300 won,” his friend explains. “What? I’m only worth a piano?” “A used one at that.” His delivery and timing is great, and really, he’s the central character if one had to be chosen.
The movie is one of the biggest film productions in Korean history, and it shows on every level. There’s a fantastically fun shootout through the streets, that includes some great high-flying stunts, and great choreography, with a solid bit of comedy mixed in. It’s a wonderful scene, and just one of many in the film where we see just how physically draining this film was on not just the actors, but the entire crew. There are lots of explosions and intense moments, and as we learn from the special features, there were no stunt doubles, and no CGI used in the film, as the actors did everything themselves. It really speaks volumes about how much they care about their art, and it really makes the final product that much more impressive.
Director Kim Jee-Woon does a masterful job at pulling this epic film together, and really has an eye for adventure. He, along with Cinematographer Lee Mogae, have put together a film that will no doubt go down in history over in Korea, but also a film that should become a hit internationally as well. There’s nothing that can’t be looked at in awe, as they really have crafted a film that stands out in the genre.
The Good, The Bad, The Weird is a film that can’t be missed by fans of westerns, foreign films, great action, comedy and solid storytelling. In short, this is a film that can’t be missed.
The film looks and sounds brilliant. It’s a visually stunning film, and the transfer just helps it on every level. The audio is also extremely friendly to the ears, as the music, explosions and dialogue all work on the same level to never leave you reaching for your remote to fiddle with things. Very well done here.
The trailer for the film can be found first.
Behind the Scenes – 15 minutes of behind the scenes footage. There’s no audio, though you can get the idea of what scenes they’re working on, and how they were able to film some of the stunts using some unique camera angles. Quite interesting, and the elaborate sets are quite interesting to see from an on-set perspective.
Cannes highlight reel – 3 minutes here, and it shows the red carpet, as well as the stars of the film arriving at Cannes. Again, no audio here (outside of the final few moments where they’re asked how they feel about the experience at Cannes real quick.) We do hear the announcer introducing the stars to the screening of the film, and it’s neat to see them all dressed in suits and done up nice after seeing them all dirty and rough looking for two hours.
Making of #1 – This featurette is just over 3 minutes in length as well. We hear from the director, who says he’ll never film on location in China again, and could probably write a best-selling book on the hardships of doing so. We also hear from the costume designer, who says they had to design over 500 different costumes to show the variety and uniqueness of the individuals in this setting. We learn that they had 170 filming sessions, with 400 staff members, just showing the massive size of the film itself. The production designer also speaks about how they had to create every little aspect of the sets, as well as deal with the many animals they constantly had on set.
Making of #2 – This second featurette is a minute long, and we hear again from Director Kim Jee-woon, as he tells us that he dreamed of telling a story about men charging through the vast desert. The making of this film was a 300 day-long expedition. While the first one seemed a bit more like a mini-featurette, this one feels more like it’s trying to sell the film, which leads me to believe that these may have been used as advertisements in Korea, to go along with trailers.
Interview with Song Kang-ho – Kang-ho played Tae-goo in the film, and this interview that runs just under 3 minutes hears the actor speak about his character, and jokes that he was hoping the other two characters would get all the actions scenes because “it was too hard.” Even though the filming was hard, he believes the final product was rewarding, and made it all worthwhile.
Interview with Lee Byung-hun – Byung-hun played Park Chang-yi in the film, and he also speaks about his time on the film, as well as his character. He says it took him a long time to decide whether or not to take the role, as he had doubts he’d be able to do the part justice. In the end, however, he was glad he did so, as playing the villain was a big transition and a blast for him.
Interview with Jung Woo-sung – Woo-sung played Do-won, and like the others, speaks about his character and time on set. He seems more soft-spoken than his fellow actors, and talks about the harsh weather conditions that delayed filming at times. He also speaks about how much he enjoyed working with Byung-hun and Kang-ho, and how they all pushed themselves to make this film the best it could be.
Interview with Director Kim Jee-woon – He says he always wanted to make a western, but wasn’t sure if it was doable in Korea. He believes the best thing he did, and the thing that makes him the most proud was being able to get the three top actors he could and bring them together to make this film.
The Good, The Bad, The Weird is a great piece of cinema that really deserves to be seen. Even if you aren’t a fan of foreign films and subtitles, the story is quite simple to follow, and the crazy stunts and shootouts, and beautiful layout makes it worthy of being seen by all. There are two different endings that were used for the film, with one used in the Korean release, and the other used internationally. From what I read about the original Korean release, I don’t really see why they decided to change it; however, the ending we get here works just as well, and doesn’t hurt the final product. Definitely check this one out.
IFC Films presents The Good, The Bad, The Weird. Directed by: Kim Jee-Woon. Starring: Song Kang Ho, Lee Byung-hun & Jung Woo-Sung. Written by: Kim Jee-Woon & Kim Min-Suk. Running time: 130 minutes. Rating: R. Released on Blu-ray: August 17, 2010.
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.