The Good, the Bad, the Weird
Sergio Leone’s influence on Korea’s very first noodle Western screams at us from the opening title. But director Kim Ji-woon also saturates this anachronistic World War II-era shoot-’em-up with nods to Indiana Jones, Mad Max, early John Woo and Jackie Chan. The theft of a treasure map kicks off a stream of double-crosses, alliances, chases, showdowns, beatings, buffoonery and epic battles as a judicious bounty hunter (Jung Woo-sung), a gangster with bangs and a hipster swagger (Lee Byung-hun), a goofy train robber (Song Kang-ho), the Japanese army, Chinese bandits and Korean freedom fighters all cross paths in the Manchurian desert. The pace is brisk, and the action mostly exhilarating and cartoonish. On the downside, the film feels too long at 130 minutes, and occasional bursts of graphic violence and sadism threaten to derail Kim’s embrace of what can best be described as merry mayhem. Ever seen a shootout go comic when one gunman dons a metal scuba helmet for protection? Now you can.