19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Three Cheers For the Manchurian Western.,
This review is from: The Good, The Bad, The Weird [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Well, blow me down with a feather! Just when I start feeling clever and think I know almost all there is to know about westerns, something yet again comes along to emphatically remind me that 'I dont know nothin'. A Manchurian western! Surely someone is having a joke! You cannot be serious! A quick check on the internet with Korea film archive, proves that there was indeed a Korean sub-genre of films called 'Manchurian westerns' which were made in the 60's and early 70's. They were set along China's border with Korea in the 1930's, during the era of Japanese occupation that made the area ripe pickings for outlaws, carpetbaggers and any opportunist on the make. In short the sort of characters you find populating your average western. Although many of these films were successful in Korea they never made it onto the global stage.
Good on director Kim Jee-Woon for reviving interest in a lost little piece of Korean film history. But in so doing he has also managed to create both a commercially successful and critically acclaimed film. Something nobody thought possible in the Korean film industry. The director of course openly plagiarises Sergio Leone's epic Spaghetti western, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", the title itself inspired by that great film. The story follows three outlaws as they battle for possession of a treasure map, in where else but thirties Manchuria. The Good (Jung Woo-sung), is a sharpshooting bounty hunter. The Bad (Lee Byung-hun, is simply very very bad indeed, and oozes bad from every pore. The Weird (Song Kang-ho), is a charismatic and eccentric thief, who happens to get his hands on an extremely valuable map. The stage is set for an almost non stop fun filled action fest. Who will get the treasure? The 'games afoot' between our three protaganists, the whole Japanese Imperial Army and a host of assorted bandits.
The film moves at the velocity of the bullet train and is unrelenting. Filmed on location in China's Gobi desert the film has a vast scale to it. The cast have clearly worked hard in an area that would have ensured trying conditions. Filmed over ten months this would have been no simple task. I was very impressed with the lead actors who all looked and played their parts well, with the right comic book sense of fun. Song is particularly good as the quirky thief, in the Eli Wallach role, and gets perhaps the choicest role. His poorly educated oddball is also both a resourceful and skilful thief, who manages to keep one step ahead of his hunters for much of the time. The film is imbued with a great sense of fun and is filled with countless laugh out loud moments. It also has a moment of magic when the Weird has the opportunity to shoot the Good as he sleeps. This was the first Manchurian western in nearly 40 years, and on this showing I sincerely hope it is not the last. Hopefully the next will be in the hands of a director as skilled as Kim Jee-won. The film deserved all the plaudits it got, and is even included in the latest edition of "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die". I do wish they would give that book a more cheery title, as I am still looking for an escape clause! I enjoyed the blu-ray version of this film which was gin clear. A fairly generous five stars for a truly innovative film. Well impressed!