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The Good, The Bad, The Weird: Asian Action-packed romp
Screened out of competition at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, The Good, The Bad, The Weird (TGTBTW) premiered to cheering crowds that applauded after a 15-minute chase scene towards the end of the film. The film’s representation of 1930s Korea is barely grounded in reality; the film’s setting of the Chinese-Korean borders under Japanese colonialism is used as a parallel to the Wild West. Without the slightest concern about story, depth, or commentary on the period, TGTBTW pulls out all its guns to shoot one absurd over-the-top action sequence after another with a bare minimum of a plot.
All three anti-heroes are modelled after their counterparts in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western classic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly with the Weird (Song) getting the most attention. He’s more endearing than Eli Wallach’s Tuco, but only because he’s more of a buffoon. He ends up with a treasure map sought after by several interested parties, one of which is a gang led by the villainous Bad (Lee). The Bad flaunts a stylised wardrobe and looks like he stepped right out of an animé picture with his emo haircut and black trench coat. Lee revels in the Bad’s aptitude for viciousness; he’s everything that you want in an insatiable villain.
The Bad has a bounty hunter on his tail called The Good (Jung), who wants his head for his own personal reasons. All three leads run throughout the film, either chasing someone or being chased themselves. The masterful Asian chorography and staging gives TGTBTW its own distinct flavour that distinguishes it from other revisionist Westerns, juxtaposing classic Western iconography with oriental sensibilities.
The centrepiece, a 15-minute chase scene in the Gobi Desert, has every mode of transport imaginable; horses, motorcycles, Jeeps, tanks…you name it. TGTBTW puts on a Latino instrumental version of ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ and lets it all play out to a blast. It’s overblown but never overwhelming.Aside from some odd slapstick here and there (the film’s affinity for physical comedy might be off-putting for some), TGTBTW is as flawless as oriental-bombastic-Westerns can get. Right from its opening with a memorable train siege; the film sets the rules and makes its intentions known: we’re about to embark on a fun ride, so buckle up: it’s going to be mind-blowingly fantastic.
They would try anything as if they had no fear of failure. They weren’t afraid of screwing up because the process and the act of creation were the important parts; if the product ended up sucking it was no big deal because they’d already be at work on the next piece. At least that’s the vibe that the documentary gives off. It also helps that the modern day, grown-up No Wavers seem every bit as cool as they did back then.