Monday, April 19, 2010

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD opens: Spaghetti Western with a twist

The Wild West: An ancient locomotive speeds along a railroad track, as the passengers in the cars behind it chat, snooze, play cards, or nibble on food.  Down the aisle comes the snack-seller hawk-
ing treats, and we hear the dulcet call, "Candy! Rice cakes! Independence for Korea!"

Yup: We're long past Kansas, and so much farther west of California that we're east.

To be honest, we already know this, as THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD (yes, it is definitely meant to remind you of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) has already begun with a scene in which a sleek, handsome but slightly scary young Asian man has been given an assignment from an older, powerful and probably lethal fellow that involves the delivery of a valuable map. Then we see a scene of hawks and vultures stealing carnage and suddenly all hell breaks loose, as bandits and bad guys of every sort seem intent on steal-
ing that map -- which you immediately suspect to be a McGuffin. You'll be right.

Within minutes this bizarre and utterly captivating movie will have you in thrall.  Robbery, gunfights, betrayals and counter-betrayals.  Stylization that's swift, smart and gorgeous.  Saturated colors so rich and deep, you'll swear they're about to drip off the screen.  And three leading men every bit as charismatic as the Eastwood-Van Cleef-Wallach team from that earlier film: Jung Woo-sung (from The Warrior, as the Good, shown two photos above), Lee Byung-hun (from Joint Security Area and 3 Extremes, as the Bad, shown on poster at top) and Song Kang-ho (from Memories of Murder and The Host, as the Weird, shown above). 

Kim Jee-Woon's movie is a one of those art-house/film buff crowd-pleasers that nearly everyone can enjoy.  Mr. Kim (shown at left), who has ear-
lier given us the much-praised Tale of Two Sisters and A Bittersweet Life, is clearly intent on trying out all sorts of genres, and doing each to a fare-thee-well.  As much as I love Korean films, I have noticed that they do tend to go on (and on). Koreans, I guess, expect their money's worth, and this movie, at a two-hour-and-ten-minute length, certainly gives it.

I suppose you could trim the film, but truthfully, every time it threatens to dissipate, something happens -- a chase, a killing, a surprise, a change of venue (underground brothel, anyone?) -- that we're back on track and moving like crazy.  And did I mention that what looks like half the Japanese army also wants that map.  (This movie has a very big budget.)

Kim's visual sense is so on-target and so much fun that you will probably sit there, as did I, happily gorging on the colors, costumes, the beauty of two of the three leading men, and one after another stunning visual set-up.  And isn't that diving bell -- shown below -- a little out of its usual venue? Don't ask.  Just watch, laugh and marvel.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird opens this Friday, April 23, at IFC Center and is also available On-Demand.  If you're not in NYC, click here to determine how to get it -- though in truth, the big screen is the way to watch this one.


dave said...

I can't wait to see this! I love weird takes on the Western Genre! A Tale of Two Sisters was haunting and disturbing, too (I didn't love Sukiyaki Western Django tho, that was just ok)

If you're into Spaghetti Westerns, you should check out my Spaghetti Western Concept Rap album, called "Showdown at the BK Corral." It's basically an epic Spaghetti Western over 9 tracks - very influenced by Leone and Morricone. I'd love to hear what you think of it! You can download it for free at

James van Maanen, said...

Hey, Dave--
I agree that Tale of Two Sisters was haunting, though it haunted a little too long, I think. Well before the finale, I grew tired of its puzzle. And yes, I couldn't even finish Sukiyaki Western Django.

I'll download and listen to your album as soon as I can. I have to admit I am not a rap aficionado (I'm OLD!) though having the Spaghetti Western theme may help matters. Will post a comment later -- or maybe send it directly to your Sunset Park Riders site.

dave said...

Hey Jim,

Thanks a lot for checking it out! I will say, we've gotten some pretty positive feedback from some older folks who don't generally like rap music. I think having the overarching narrative helps. I'd love to hear what you think!

James van Maanen, said...

I did listen to the whole album (twice, actually) and enjoyed it (pretty much, some tracks more than others). I sent you an email on your site itself, via the link to "Contact Us" (I think that's how it was phrased). Are you receiving emails sent that way? (I don't have a record of it because it was not sent from my own email server.) I believe I mentioned enjoying the early track the best (I think it was the second one). Really good! And, as you say, having a narrative probably does help some of us who are rap-o-phobic.

It seems to me that your group has more melody and variation than a lot of the rap I've heard. This helps!

Anyway, I wish you well with this effort and with any others you pursue.

dave said...

Hey Jim,

Thanks a lot for checking it out! I didn't receive your email, unfortunately. I'll have to look into the mechanics of our site, if maybe we're having a problem with it.

Thanks a lot for the feedback. This is actually something I've been thinking about a lot, and have been having a bit of a discussion about on our blog. Here's a link, if you're interested in taking a look.

Showdown at the BK Corral's appeal to the rap-o-phobic

Thanks again,

pasta maker said...

I watched this movie. This one is a really unique movie. Well, it's not always Asian's are putting out awesome action movies like these. Some of them are cool like Ninja Assassin (but that was under warner bros too I think). But this is an awesome movie.

Nice blog you got James, simple yet cool and full of movies :)

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks, Pasta (and your machine looks good, too -- I linked). Guess the word "Spaghetti" in my headline caught your eye...?