TELLURIDE FILM FEST
Telluride Review: The Good, The Bad, and The Weird
by Alex Billington
September 2, 2008
As a finale to the Telluride Film Festival and as my last screening, I saw The Good, The Bad, and The Weird, an immensely fun and absurdly badass Asian spaghetti western. I've been anxiously awaiting an opportunity to see this film ever since I first caught the trailer back in May. After finally seeing it, I can definitely say it delivers so much more than I expected. This film is playing at every big festival - Cannes, Venice, Telluride, Toronto, and Fantastic Fest - and that should tell you a bit more than just that it's a great festival film - it's a fantastic cinematic experience as well. Although I enjoyed the culture and storytelling in Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, I had an exceptionally fun time watching this.
The Good, The Bad, and The Weird is an exciting fusion of Asian spaghetti westerns, Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and even Ben Hur and The Road Warrior. The Bad (Lee Byung-hun), one of the best killers in all of Manchuria, is hired to steal a treasure map from a man on a train, but before he can get to it, The Weird (Song Kang-ho) shows up to rob the train and ends up finding it first. As he attempts to make his escape, The Good (Jung Woo-sung), a bounty hunter out to kill The Bad for his reward, shows up as well. The then film travels from gangster hideouts to small towns and back, before eventually ending up in the desert where the greatest all-out battle between everyone takes place.
It's challenging to review this film and challenging to explain why I loved it. The Good, The Bad, and The Weird is a kind of film that particular fanatic moviegoers can soak up and enjoy while others will end up bored. There's no way to really critique the story or the directing, because if it's entertaining to watch, then it has simply achieved its objective. Song Kang-ho as The Weird deserves the most acting honors because his quirky character and natural humor was what really carried the story and brought such vibrant life to the film. Director Kim Ji-woon's fight choreography and visual aptitude is also worth mentioning. It's amazing to realize that they pulled off such an epic and entertaining story for under $20 million!
Although the cinematography is sometimes shakier than the Bourne movies, it's quite colorful and exquisitely composed (despite quick cuts during action scenes), which is the most I can say besides suggesting watching all 120 minutes of it on the big screen. To give a good comparison, there are fight scenes in the middle of The Good, The Bad, and The Weird that rival those in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, a production that cost 10 times more than this. And the characters each bring their own unique fighting style to the film as well: either brutally sinister, unusually skilled, or playfully accurate.
My expectations were sky high for The Good, The Bad, and The Weird, but it definitely surpassed them. I'm already counting down the hours until I get to see it again at Fantastic Fest in a few weeks. There's not much at all that I can complain about, besides some nauseating camera work, but besides that, this film was an absolutely entertaining Asian adventure from start to finish. It's vastly better than Sukiyaki Western Django and never boring, so don't think twice, just add it to your list of movies to see. Watching this two hour epic unfold in front of my eyes was like watching every great gun fight and action scene from cinematic history crammed into a spaghetti western with three amusing characters - pure bliss!
Telluride Rating: 9.5 out of 10