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The Good, the Bad, the Weird | DVD Review

The action in The Good, The Bad, The Weird is non-stop and is sure to please fans of westerns and Asian films alike. Hell, any fan of action movies in general should seek this one out.

Western Asia, sure. But Asian westerns? Why not? While the classic western films have almost always been set in the American West during its early days, the idea of oaters taking place in the vast expanse of land that is East Asia makes sense and has birthed a kind of sub-genre, with recent western fare like the Thai Dynamite Warrior from director Chalerm Wongpim and the Japanese Sukiyaki Western Django from the great Takashi Miike. Now, from Korea, we can add writer/director Kim Jee-woon’s The Good, The Bad, The Weird to the ever-growing list of quality horse-and-gun epics coming out of Asia.

The premise itself is rather simple and pretty standard stuff as far as westerns go: three strangers, as well as a host of other dubious characters, are after a stolen treasure map in 1930s Manchuria and will stop at nothing in order to get their hands on it and find the untold riches that it promises. Double-crossing each other at every turn are Song Kang-ho (The Host, Thirst) as the bumbling thief in possession of the map, Jung Woo-sung (The Warrior) as the bounty hunter out to get him, and Lee Byung-hun (Hero, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) as a notoriously ruthless assassin who may be after more than the map and its treasure. Non-stop action interspersed with some subtle and endearing comedic scenes ensure that this is one crowd-pleaser of an adventure flick.

Writer/director Kim Jee-woon has never stuck to any one genre. His A Tale of Two Sisters was an expertly crafted supernatural thriller that was remade in North America as The Uninvited, while A Bittersweet Life was a moody crime drama that was also well-received. Kim has once again inserted himself into a genre and delivered a wholly entertaining film that includes all the staples of that genre, including loads of gunfights, subplots involving the history of the region and personal vendettas between characters. And that’s saying nothing of the dazzling cinematography by Lee Mo-gae: vast panoramic scenery is rendered as beautiful as can be, with crystal blue skies contrasting brilliantly with the dusty desert landscape. It’s easy to see why The Good, The Bad, The Weird was nominated for eight Asian Film Awards (the Asian Oscars) in 2009, including best director, best film, best actor, best cinematography, and winning the award for best supporting actor (Jung Woo-sung).

As is the norm with western films, the scenery is almost a character unto itself in The Good, The Bad, The Weird. The 2.35:1 transfer on the DVD is well-done, creating a visual stunner with luscgious panoramic desert sequences and vibrant colors all around. The phenomenal sound is notable too, with bullets ricocheting out of every speaker in a 5.1 setup and an energetic score that is a mish-mash of classic western fare mixed with hints of Morricone’s spaghetti western scores and traditional Asian sounds. The DVD release contains over 35 minutes of special features:

Behind the Scenes
This 15-minute featurette is composed mainly of raw footage from secondary cameras as many of the action sequences were being filmed. It provides a great glimpse into what, exactly, is involved in bringing what you see on the big screen to life.

Cannes Highlight Reel
This quick and fun 3-minute reel shows the three leads and the director manning the red carpet at the film’s Cannes premiere and includes some reactionary blurbs from the three of them as to their experience there.

Making of #1
The next two special features are more promotional videos than they are “making of”, with this first one detailing how large a production the film was, with various crew members chiming in about their roles and what they entailed. At 3 minutes long, it’s just the right length. Anything less would not have provided enough information, while anything more would have rendered it repetitive and boring.

Making of #2
A one-minute video of director Kim Jee-woon praising everyone involved in the film and expressing his hopes that audiences will enjoy it.

Interviews with Actors and Director
In four separate 3-minute interviews – more like statements, as no questions are actually asked – the three actors each explain why they were interested in the roles and express their hopes that audiences enjoy the finished film as much as they enjoyed making it. Only director Kim Jee-woon veers from this format, explaining how he came up with the idea for the film when he imagined Song Kang-ho riding through the desert on a motorcycle, and how he was happy the actors wanted to do their own stunts in the film, making for a more fluid and realistic final product.

Rounding out the special features is a two-minute theatrical trailer.

From the wonderfully shot opening train robbery gone wrong right up to the final frenetic chase scene through the Manchurian desert, the action in The Good, The Bad, The Weird is non-stop and is sure to please fans of Hollywood westerns and Asian films alike. Hell, any fan of action movies in general should seek this one out.

Movie rating – 3.5

Disc Rating – 3.5

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