Weird Weird Western
Did there really have to be two deaths by butt impalement?
Said deaths are the least pleasant thing about The Good the Bad the Weird (, opening Friday, June 18, at the Bijou), Korean director Kim Jee-woon (A Bittersweet Life)’s self-described “Oriental Western.” Set in a slightly anachronistic 1930s Manchuria, Kim’s tongue-in-cheek flick lovingly and playfully references a certain Sergio Leone film. Chang-yi (Lee Byung-hun), a slick badass with a Prince-esque mullet, is hired to steal a map. A thief, Tae-goo (Song Kang-ho, from The Host), lucks into the treasure first (via a sleek shot that follows him much of the length of the train). Do-won (Jung Woo-sung), a calm, smooth-faced bounty hunter, also has a horse in this race — and a way with a shotgun.
A gaggle of multi-national bandits watches from the hills as one of these men makes off with the map, one follows and one sulks (constantly). What follows is a series of shoot-‘em-ups and the occasional misguided death. The Good the Bad the Weird is not always entirely coherent, but Kim knocks out a generous handful of gorgeous, classically Western shots, and the film’s best action sequences absolutely sing. Do-won swings across a courtyard in impossibly balletic leaps, shotgun in hand; an absurdly long, hectic, incredible chase sequence involves all aforementioned parties and the Japanese army. The standoff that’s yet to come can only up the absurdity. Violent (though mostly unrealistically so), broad, benefiting from the charisma among its three leads but in need of a trim, The Good the Bad the Weird couldn’t be more aptly named.