Thursday, September 02, 2010

The good, the bad, the weird


The Good, The Bad, The Weird by Kim Ji-woon is an inspired attempt to mix Spaghetti Western with a touch of Indiana Jones through a Korean sensibility.

The plot? Well, let's see, three loosely connected men with disparate motives are searching for a treasure through the desert.

Suffice it to say, Song Kang-ho steals this movie just as easily as Eli Wallach stole The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

But it wasn't the comparisons to Sergio Leone and Steven Spielberg are the least of the treats here. Kim seems to be drawing from a larger pool of storytelling, whether consciously or not.

From my dorky perspective, I kept being reminded of comic writer Chuck Dixon. It wasn't his The Good, The Bad, The Ugly series that came to mind, but rather his wuxia-styled Way of the Rat. I suspect this says something about how well Dixon and artist Jeff Johnson captured classic Asian storytelling in their comic than anything else.

Kim specifically takes this story into that motif, setting it in the Manchuria of the 1930s, facing the encroaching forces of the Empire of Japan. References are made to issues such as the invasion of Korea, but like Raiders of the Lost Ark, the politics seem more to set the time and place, and as a kind of moral shortcut than to examine anything in particular about them.

I keep popping out references and comparisons, but they're not the point. I could as easily explain how English folk songs and such informed Cream alongside their love of Rock 'n' Roll and the blues, but sometimes it's best just turn up the stereo and let it in.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird moves along with a lot of action and a very sly sense of humor. I wouldn't go into it for its pastiche value, just sit down, watch, laugh, cheer, enjoy!


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