Embodying all the idiosyncrasies that the paradoxical designation “Oriental western” could conjure up, The Good, The Bad, The Weird opens on a train as three men chase each other to obtain a treasure map. The mayhem develops when the trio disembark the train and continue their hunt on foot, competing with bandits and Japanese soldiers who have come to hear of the map. As tensions rise, the men come to realise that the map itself is of little importance, and a lot is at stake. Budding star Lee Byung-hun, soon to be seen in I Come With The Rain and G.I. Joe, portrays The Bad, a steadfast hitman, while the ursine Song Kang-Ho plays The Weird, a naïve but self-assured thief. Jung Woo-Sung completes the main cast as bounty hunter The Good.
When taken in the context of Kim Ji-Woon’s apparently flawless track record (The Quiet Family, A Tale Of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life), or even in light of other recent Korean success stories, The Good, The Bad, The Weird does look pretty disposable. Admittedly, the director’s trademark plot contrivances are scrapped in favour of straightforward entertainment, and the characters are little more than a Sergio Leone pastiche – but that’s not to say he has grown lazy. Photographically, the film is an incredible feat, the camera almost as well-choreographed as the stuntmen, and it is near impossible not to explode with laughter at some of the more slapstick moments. By no means a classic, but a thoroughly entertaining watch.