Korean cinema has really flourished over the last five years under the guidance of directors like Chan-wook Park and Joon-hoo Bong, and you could probably add Ji-woon Kim to that list as well. Though his last two movies (the horror thriller “A Tale of Two Sisters” and the crime drama “A Bittersweet Life”) haven’t had much of an impact overseas, his latest film is a fresh and fun action comedy that transcends its midnight movie façade to succeed as a true cult classic in the making. Unlike Takashi Miike’s “Sukiyaki Western Django,” which failed to make the most of its East-meets-West potential, “The Good, the Bad, the Weird” actually has a solid story and some great acting to go along with its flashy set pieces.
Clearly inspired by Sergio Leone’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” Kim’s film takes place in 1930s Manchuria where three strangers – a bounty hunter (Woo-sung Jung), an assassin (Byung-hun Lee), and a clumsy thief (Kang-ho Song) – face off for possession of a stolen treasure map while being pursued by a group of bandits and the Japanese army. Though it’s a bit long at 130 minutes, Kim does well to keep the story moving along as we learn more about the characters and how they’re connected to one another. Granted, the supposed Good of the film isn’t really all that good considering he kills the most people, and Jung makes him so mysterious that he’s also the least identifiable, but the other two actors are perfect in their respective roles – particularly Song, who’s so amusing as the comic relief that it’s hard to imagine the movie working as well as it does without him in the mix. The film also features a handful of incredible action sequences that underscore everything that’s great about “The Good, the Bad, the Weird,” and although it might not appeal to everyone, it’s one of the most wildly entertaining movies that I’ve seen all year.