All those who love The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the supreme masterpiece among Sergio Leone‘s spaghetti western movies, surely cannot miss this hilarious 2018 Korean action parody, The Good, The Bad, The Weird.
The story begins in the middle of the Manchurian desert, where several criminals converge at the same time to assault the same train.
This is no coincidence, however, because on board are a bank bigwig and a Japanese government official.
Their meeting was to exchange a precious map the Japanese had been searching for for a long time, which supposedly led straight to a mysterious treasure.
No one knows precisely what it is, as some believe it is rich gold loot, and others are convinced it may reveal the location of an oil field or a valuable mine.
Amid the shootout following the assault, the one who succeeds in stealing the desired prize is precisely the most unlikely of these criminals, a petty thief who escapes with the help of an accomplice.
However, he only gets a little far as a bounty hunter catches him just as he tries to decipher the symbols and Russian words on this map.
They are unaware that on their trail is a violent psychopath whom everyone calls Manchuria Kid, who does not hesitate to kill and torture anyone in his path.
In addition, this madman has a habit of cutting off his victims’ fingers, so many people call him Finger Chopper.
However, the thief is still determining this story, believing that Finger Chopper and Manchuria Kid are two separate persons with an old rivalry to close.
While the Russian army also joins the search for the precious map, all these gunmen converge in the desert for a devastating final confrontation.
Western and crazy Korea-like action
Among the many young and talented Korean directors, Kim Jee-woon is one of those achieving a bit of fame than others.
After standing out for his skill behind the camera and the originality of his scripts, he made his Hollywood debut with the entertaining The Last Stand, Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s cinematic comeback after his governorship career.
Of the many titles in his filmography, my favorite is 2005’s A Bittersweet Life, again starring Lee Byung-hun, the bad of today’s three main characters.
The Good, The Bad, The Weird is an unusual 2018 Asian western movie, full of fun and frenetic, highly spectacular action sequences.
Although presenting the characters as a series of stereotypes, Kim Jee-woon depicts their personalities and motivations driving them into this adventure.
The action is violent and practically non-stop, allowing only a few brief pauses, mainly for the amusing comic interlude between the characters and the evolution of their temporary alliances before returning to being enemies.
Cinematic references obviously go to the prominent exponents of Western history as Sergio Leone or John Ford masterpieces.
However, the director also pays homage to cult movies such as Mad Max, for example, in the climax with the noisy explosive chase with car fights, motorcycles, horses, and cannon fire from the soldiers.
Despite the clear Western inspiration, a notable Eastern soul is also present in the cultural reenactment of the Japanese invasion of Korea, with roaming people in the wilderness trying to preserve their cultural identity.
Costumes and sets merrily mingle with lighting and exaggerated cartoon-like colors, with no shortage of violent splashes of blood, especially when Lee Byung-hun’s sadistic character enters the scene.
All in all, the entertainment is innocent enough to let you watch it even by children, to have some noisy fun quietly as a family.
Comedy and violence in old Manchuria
Although the story involves so many characters, the most important are ( as from the title) precisely The Good, The Bad, and The Weird.
I have already mentioned Lee Byung-hun, perfect in his part as The Bad, with handsome eyes shining with madness and vengeance, and an actor of elegant physical agility in the many action scenes.
As in numerous adventure stories, if you have a solid, charming villain, half the job is already done, and this case is no exception.
However, I loved more the friendly rogue played by Song Kang-ho, The Weird, who reprises Eli Wallach‘s fantastic Tuco in Sergio Leone‘s legendary western with originality.
In this case, his action parts are usually fun, such as the big shootout inside the market, where he fights absurdly with a diving helmet on his head.
Somewhere in between, we find Jung Woo-sung, who instead is The Good, or at least let’s say good enough not to be entirely a criminal like the other two main characters.
His action scenes are definitely the most spectacular, such as when he flies hanging from a cable, firing unerringly in the same market scene, imitating the rifle skills of Clint Eastwood‘s Good blonde guy.
Amid this great treasure hunt among soldiers and criminals, his character maintains a minimal amount of dignity and has a code of honor to which he sticks even when wishing to do something else.
Considering its budget of $10 million, which is less for a modern action movie, The Good, The Bad, The Weird was a big hit in 2018, grossing over $40 million worldwide.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s an absurd and exhilarating cinematic merry-go-round from which we regret getting off come to an end.