The Good, The Bad and the Weird

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[Film Review]

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966) was the final installment in the trilogy of spaghetti Westerns written and directed by Sergio Leone which turned Clint Eastwood into a bona fide movie star. That riveting cinema classic revolved around a grizzled gunslinger, a heartless hit man and a wanted outlaw’s race across the vast expanse of the barren desert in search of a buried treasure of gold bullion.

It obviously occurs to some studios to try to improve upon perfection, which explains why, over the years, we’ve witnessed remakes of everything from King Kong to Psycho to The Nutty Professor to Planet of the Apes. Now we have The Good, the Bad & the Weird, a flick written and directed by Korea’s Ji-woon Kim.

This sprawling spoof is set in Manchuria where we find three Asian cowboys (Byung-hun Lee, Kang-ho Song and Woo-sung Jung) being chased by both the Japanese army and Chinese bandits while in a race to find, guess what, a priceless, hidden treasure. Yes, this variation has a slightly different title from the original, but it doesn’t otherwise give Leone any credit for the screenplay or for creating the basically-identical characters.

Nonetheless, even though I haven’t seen Clint’s version in many moons, again and again, the action here is vaguely familiar. For instance, there’s a scene where the hero rides his horse through the blazing sun while tethered to a bandit on foot with a rope around his neck. Where did I see that before? How about another where he shoots the air out from under a 10-gallon hat, every time a bad guy tries to pick it up?

Not that this is a scene-for-scene redo ala Gus Van Sant’s Psycho. No, Kim takes considerable liberties, too, such as setting the tale in the Thirties, so we have motorcycles and other modern conveniences alongside the genre’s 19th Century staples.     

Overall, this lighthearted, low-budget adventure is likely to work well for those capable of approaching it more as a novelty than a knockoff.

That way, one might easily accept it on its own wacky terms without making any invidious comparisons to the source material. Clint Eastwood, chopsocky-style!
Very Good (3 stars). Unrated. In Korean, Mandarin and Japanese with subtitles. Running time: 131 Minutes. Distributor: IFC Films

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