The List: The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008)

Well, it’s late Sunday and nobody has died yet (knocking on wood) so my movie from The Other List of the day was The Good, The Bad, The Weird, a Korean Spaghetti Western from director Kim Jee-Woon, perhaps most notorious around these parts for A Tale of Two Sisters and I Saw the Devil.

In 1930s Manchuria (a canny choice for a substitute wild west), there’s a plan involving a double cross for a map to an unknown treasure somewhere in the Gobi Desert. A small-time thief steals the map before the hit man hired to do the job can reach it, and both men are being pursued by a bounty hunter. There’s our three title characters, very much along the lines of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Also looking for the map is a gang of Manchurian bandits and the Japanese Army, as if things weren’t already going boom enough.

It also makes me wonder what the modern action movie would do if Santa Esmerelda had never done their cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”.

The most expensive Korean film ever shot at the time, there is no doubting the production values on display here; from the opening train robbery to a couple of settlements that are destined to go up in explosions and gunfire, the design and execution is top-notch. Kim really gets his money’s worth from his steadicam and various cranes. The camera work is fluid and frequently dizzying, swooping along with the action like a bird of prey.

If there is anything I would criticize, it would be the movie’s length: at a little over two hours, I – remarkably – got tired of things blowing up real good (same thing happened to me with Terminator 2). There are at least two extended scenes that could be scissored without ruining the overall movie, but… that’s not up to me. It’s a bit lengthy, but still quite enjoyable.

As I ponder this, I realize this movie may be the first casualty of my push to watch films of a higher caliber (to use an unfortunate but all too appropriate turn of phrase). Sheer, zestful entertainment like The Good, The Bad, The Weird was the sort of movie I lived for, and to see it done this well should have me turning cartwheels and calling up people to insist they view it. But good as it is, it’s about as deep as a shell casing; I find I want more dimensions from the movies I watch. The Good The etc. is a very good action movie, it aspires to be nothing more than a very good action movie, and that’s admirable.

I’m just greedy.