Good, the Bad, the Weird, The

Reviewed By William Goss
Posted 11/06/08 16:37:18

"A Fistful of Awesome"
5 stars (Awesome)

SCREENED AT FANTASTIC FEST 2008: If ever one needed proof that Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns are worthy of their adored reputation, even without having seen them, it almost seems like the giddy go-for-broke spectacle that is Ji-woon Kim’s 'The Good, The Bad, The Weird' would be reason enough to respect their cultural worth.

After all, if it weren’t for those films, we wouldn’t have this feature-length chase in which a stern bounty hunter (the Good, played by Woo-sung Jung) pursues a slick assassin (the Bad, played by Byung-hun Lee), who is pursuing a goofy bandit (the Weird, played by Kang-ho Song), who happens to have swiped a treasure map off the train that they simultaneously assault in the middle of the Manchurian frontier.

From this breathless opening sequence onward, Kim (A Tale of Two Sisters) barrels his epic action-adventure along from set piece to set piece -- a village shoot-out resulting in some unique armor here, a climactic desert race between horses, cars, trucks and bikes there -- with all manner of stunts, twists and jokes in between, and a seemingly endless reserve of exhilaration at his disposal. From the trio of spot-on lead performances (the endearingly goofball Song in particular) to the prevalence of practical stunts (and oh, what stunts), from the relentlessly lush color scheme and period details (our tale’s set in the 1930s) to the often sweeping cinematography, not to mention the constantly energetic soundtrack, every last aspect is dedicated to making the most of this heady showcase of glorious excess – like the bastard child of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and Kung Fu Hustle, or possibly the first Pirates of the Caribbean (we're still waiting on the test results). There are plenty of story threads and overlapping agendas as men and military alike follow the map to unknown riches, and yet only the most skint plot in the end, because it really doesn’t matter; it’s just that much fun to see unfold, and better yet on the big screen, and by the time we get to a familiar stand-off in the film’s final moments, we’re reeled in just as much as Leone had managed in his own work.

(Oh, and did I mention that this, South Korea’s most expensive production to date, has a budget of roughly $17 million USD? Just imagine if Hollywood could bring even half as much oomph to projects with thrice that budget…)

Okay, I’ll admit that it’s easy, maybe too easy, to laud adjective upon adverb in cheering this flick on – I want to share so much, yet spoil so little – but any movie geek worth his weight is all about the chase of the thrill, and all 'The Good, The Bad, The Weird' is about is the thrill of the chase. It’s that ideal popcorn movie that’ll have you skipping the concession stand, because believe me when I say that it’s mighty hard to scarf down popcorn when faced with a two-hour grin.

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