Tuesday, May 4, 2010
The Good, the Bad, the Weird (좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈)
Once upon a time, Hollywood begins to shamelessly remake Asian films. Not surprisingly, few of them, if any at all, have exceeded their originals. Otherwise, Hollywood would have created something original at the first place. What to do? How about get a lesson from an Asian director on remaking a film? Inspired by the classic western "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo | Italy 1966), acclaimed Korean director Kim Jee-woon writes and directs an over the top Korean style western "The Good, the Bad, the Weird" (좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈 | South Korea 2008 | in Korean | 130 min.). The film turns out to be anything but a remake. It is utterly original, immensely entertaining, visually rich, laugh-out-loud hilarious, and outrageously exhilarating. It easily takes a spot in this year's top ten films even the year is still young.
The film is set in the Japanese occupied Manchuria in 1930s, where bandits and ethnic clans appear frequently along the railroad tracks. As the title suggests, the film has three protagonists. However, it is not a clear cut about who is the good, who is the bad, although definitely all of them are a little bit weird. The three Korean men are a bounty hunter Park Do-won (Jung Woo-sung) who captures criminals for money, a bandit leader Park Chang-yi (Lee Byung-hun) who wants to be second to no one, and a robber Yoon Tae-goo (Song Kang-ho) who can sneak out just about any crisis unharmed.
The bandit leader Chang-yi is supposed to bring back a map that has been falling into the hands of the Japanese. However, before Chang-yi can lay a finger on the map, it is stolen by the cunning thief Tae-goo, who believes that it shows the location of great treasure. However, Tae-goo is captured by the bounty hunter Do-won. A cat-mouse chasing game begins, joining in by other gangs and the Japanese army with non-stop actions and explosions. Meanwhile, none of them actually knows what that map is for. Well, there is no time to worry about that. Their lives are always attached by a thin line that might break in any second.
The film's is irresistibly captivating and genuinely funny. At the opening of the film, before the film explains who these characters are, they are already shooting at each other on a train. The director understands the confusion we might have, so he uses one of the Chinese clan leader to speak for us—he asks his assistant in Chinese while observing the battle from afar: "Do you know what is going on?" That is the tune of the humor in the film.
Even this is one of the most expensive films ever made in Korean, its $17 millions budget seems a pocket change in a Hollywood production. It deserves to be seen on the big screen in a theater to be fully appreciated for its magnificence, even one has never heard about the film "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." This is how a remake should be done. Take notes, Hollywood.