I am definitely behind on my westerns. I need to catch up if I don’t want to subject myself to another horrifying experience like Battlefield Earth. Which I don’t. I really, really don’t.
So Mek and I watched The Good, the Bad, the Weird.
I’ve been a little disappointed with the last few westerns on my list. Thankfully, that wasn’t my experience with this one at all.
Yoon Tae-goo (Kang-ho Song), a petty thief in Manchuria, steals a treasure map and hopes to strike gold. Unfortunately for him, an assassin, a bounty hunter, a whole score of bandits, and the Japanese army are also looking to get their hands on the same map.
1. Now, I’m not saying the above summary is the best plot description ever written. I’m generalizing — after all, the bounty hunter, Park Do-won (Woo-sung Jung), is less interested in the map than he is in capturing Park Chang-yi (Byung-hun Lee). And strike gold? Kind of a cliche; I know it. I’m prepared to accept that I may not win the Oscar for Best Movie Summary this year.
But my summary still kicks Netflix’s summary’s ASS.
On a train crossing the Manchurian desert in the 1930s, a bounty hunter, a gangster and a train robber unite to find a treasure map’s promised loot. Racing through the unforgiving landscape, they stay one step ahead of rivals and the Japanese army.
You know what doesn’t happen in this movie? The bounty hunter, the gangster, and the train robber uniting. Like, EVER. I mean, two of the guys strike an uneasy alliance for a while — not surprising, if you’ve seen The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly — but there is certainly no point in time where all three are working together as a team. The Three Musketeers, these guys are not, so stop lying to me, Netflix. You’re only embarrassing yourself.
2. All right, now that I’ve got that settled — this is a fun movie. Like, really fun. There are a few things I might have changed, and I haven’t totally made up my mind about the ending yet, but I definitely had a good time watching The Good, The Bad, the Weird. In fact — and here comes the blasphemy — I actually enjoyed it more than its predecessor, although obviously this movie could not have come into being without that one, blah blah blah. (There is absolutely merit in recognizing the influences that classic movies have on modern cinema, but that certainly doesn’t mean you’re obligated to like those classic movies. Although I did like The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. I just thought it was forty-five minutes too long, that’s all.)
This movie clocks in at two hours and ten minutes and, for my money, goes twice as fast. It is silly and awesome and exuberantly embraces the western genre while incorporating a lot of quirky humor and ridiculous props — like brass diving helmets, for instance.
After all, you never know when you might need a diving helmet in a gunfight.
3. Let’s look at our Good, our Bad, and our Weird, shall we?
Yoon Tae-goo — The Weird
We’re looking at the Weird first because this is absolutely his movie. Not just because he’s the best character — although he kind of is — but because the film centers around his story instead of, say, following the Good. It’s not a bad call — part of what makes this movie so enjoyable is watching Tae-goo’s antics as he scurries around, trying to stay one step ahead of everyone who’s chasing him. Kang-ho Song is pretty awesome in the role, and I’d like to see him in more movies. (Which I will. I still need to watch The Host and Priest, not to mention Snowpiercer, when it eventually comes out.)
Park Chang-yi — The Bad
I totally get a kick out of Chang-yi, with his emo bang and his crazy eye and his completely obvious insecurity issues. Honestly, he kills pretty much anyone who insults him — which, admittedly, is the kind of overreaction you expect from a bad guy, but is sort of a repeated thing with Chang-yi during this film. I kind of have a mad crush on him right now. (What can I say? I have a thing for manic grins.)
I did briefly consider doing a five-minute Chang-yi cosplay, but lacking a cool black suit or thin mustache, I was pretty sure I’d just look like I was dressing up as Lisbeth Salander again.
Park Do-won – The Good
Of the three leads, Park Do-won surprisingly has the least to do. He’s the straight man of the bunch, certainly in comparison with Tae-goo’s wackiness and Chang-yi’s psychopathy, which sort of automatically makes him the least interesting character. He’s still enjoyable, though, because really — who doesn’t like a taciturn bounty hunter? Not this girl, I can tell you that. (Although I generally like manic grins more.)
I do feel like Do-won might get a little short-changed on screen time, though. The balance between his character and the other two feels a little off to me, and if he just had one or two more scenes to establish backstory, I think the movie would have been stronger for it.
4. There are virtually no female characters anywhere in this film. I think one woman might have a line or two — that’s about it. That doesn’t make this a bad movie, of course, but I am starting to tag movies that fail the Bechdel Test because, wow, are there a lot of them. Also, I kind of want to do my own tribute version of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly with women as the main characters, although I’m torn on keeping it an actual western versus translating the basic setup into a modern day story with western elements. (Not that I’ll actually do either in the near future, but I like to pretend that someday I’ll be famous and well-respected enough that someone will actually pay me to write a modern feminist update of a Clint Eastwood movie. Because how fun would that be?)
5. I mostly enjoyed the dialogue in this film, but there are a few moments that need work, I think. Not many, but I could definitely feel the writer’s not-so-subtle hand a couple of times, and it bothered me a little. Specifically one moment where a minor character was ridiculously, suicidally stupid, just so we could have a moment of exposition. I didn’t buy it, not for one second. There are better ways to work in your exposition, people.
6. The Good, the Bad, the Weird has a pretty amazing soundtrack. It would be hard to imagine the film without it — the music is integral to the movie’s quick pace and joyfully outlandish tone, and I had “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (also featured in Kill Bill, Vol. 1) stuck in my head for the rest of night. Of course this is, like so many things I want, a nearly impossible soundtrack to buy without spending at least fifty dollars. It’s like desperately searching for music from Cowboy Bebop all over again.
7. Finally, I just want to nominate Byung-choon (Je-mun Yoon) as a possible contender for Worst Fashion of 2013. He’s wearing, like, a purple velvet coat or something with a fur-lined hood? I don’t know; it’s terrible. For shame, Byung-choon. For shame.
So, Tae-goo and Park Do-wan briefly team up, and we learn that Park Do-wan is after Park Chang-yi because he believes Chang-yi is this super baddie known as the Finger Chopper. (Guess what he does?) After all, Chang-yi was so enraged when some other loser called himself the Finger Chopper that Chang-yi butchered the hell out of him, and we all know about Chang-yi’s massive insecurity issues. Tae-goo says, “You say he’s the Finger Chopper, but that’s not what I know. So you’re after him cause he’s the Finger Chopper?” And this is when Mek and I looked at each other and realized that, against all odds, our scrappy, not-so-terribly clever thief is totally, secretly the Finger Chopper.
This might be obvious — sometimes, it’s hard to know what’s obvious without talking to a lot of other people and seeing what they thought about a particular plot twist — but I actually don’t mind it. Cause, one, who doesn’t like feeling smart? I sure do. But more importantly, knowing Tae-goo’s secret identity weirdly allowed me to feel a little more tense going into the film’s conclusion.
Because in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly — and brief SPOILERS for that film — I never felt particularly worried that Clint Eastwood wasn’t going to make it, you know? But in The Good, the Bad, the Weird, I was considerably less sure of the outcome. Tae-goo is clearly the lead, but he’s implied to have a bloodier history than even our bad, Chang-yi. Meanwhile, Chang-yi is clearly a psycho, but he’s also a victim of Tae-goo (more on that in a minute), which makes him a little more sympathetic, if not exactly a Good. And our actual Good, well, he’s not entirely a saint himself, and he’s the most minor of all the three leads. So, the whole Mexican stand-off actually seemed like edge-of-your-seat stuff, and that was pretty awesome.
Less awesome: the scene where Ridiculously, Suicidally Stupid Henchman asks Chang-yi to tell him all about that time Tae-goo kicked his ass. Literally, this is what he says: “There’s something I’ve been dying to know, sir. I heard you once had a duel with Yoon Tae-goo. Is it true? Then who won, sir? I heard many different versions. Some say Tae-goo is the best.” Shockingly, Chang-yi doesn’t take this very well and our Ridiculously, Suicidally Stupid Henchmen quickly ends up dead.
So, first . . . who actually says Tae-goo’s the best? If they know who he was back in Korea, maybe, but I was under the impression that wasn’t common knowledge. (In fact, I’m pretty sure Tae-goo himself says that no one’s ever seen the Finger Chopper’s face, or something in that regard.) So who exactly is looking at this funny little dude and his silly hat and thinking, “Man, what a badass.”
Also, we’re getting this scene purely to establish that Chang-yi, one, takes being the Best very seriously and, two, has some past business with Tae-goo, like, Tae-goo chopped one of his fingers off. (Which, ha. Totally called.)
And I know it’s a tiny thing to niptick at, but I simply can’t believe anyone who’s worked for Chang-yi for more than five seconds would ever actually say something like this to him. If the dude had been asking one of his henchmen buddies and Chang-yi overheard him, that would be fine. But this . . . this is just lazy and dumb and probably annoys me more than it should.
Anyway, lots of stuff happens that I’m going to ignore because I need to work on my review for Thor 2 as well. Let’s just go back to that Mexican Standoff, shall we?
While I love the tension going into this scene, I have mixed feelings about how it actually plays out.
In the version I watched — the international version — the three guys shoot the shit out of each other and all lie there dying as oil erupts from the ground. (Cause Tae-goo’s map isn’t actually a treasure map, or at least not that kind of treasure map. I do like this part, actually — it’s obvious that Tae-goo has misinterpreted the map’s purpose from nearly the moment he gets it, so this reveal works well for me.)
The thing is, I did feel a little like, well, why did I even watch this thing, if the guys all just die at the end? Especially since I never really got a great handle on Do-won’s motivations, and he comes off as a tiny bit inconsequential next to the other two characters, making the arc of the story and its conclusion feel a little unbalanced to me. (Although I should say that Do-won’s lack of character depth and screen time bothers me considerably less than Angel Eyes’s lack of characterization in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.) I also haven’t decided if everyone dying really matches up well with the tone of the movie, although I do think it’s possible I’ll come around on this ending after repeat viewings. I’m just not sure yet.
The other ending (the one for Korean audiences) had Chang-yi dying and Do-wan chasing after Tae-goo. I kind of like that, but only kind of because out of all the possible outcomes, it seems like the most predictable since — AGAIN, BRIEF SPOILERS FOR THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY — the Good and the Weird are the ones who make it out alive there too. So again, I’m torn.
I still enjoyed the hell out of this movie, though. It is easily one of my favorite westerns to date, and I wouldn’t mind getting a copy of it for my ever-growing DVD collection.
Man-gil: “The bounty on your head is 300 won.”
Tae-goo: “What? I’m only worth a piano?”
Man-gil: “And a used one at that.”
Tae-goo: “Why the hell did you chase me out here?”
Chang-yi: “To find out who’s the best.”
Tae-goo: “You be the best! I don’t care! Tell people I lost. I don’t give a damn.”
Do-wan: “You. Run to the other side so I can see where they’re shooting from.”
Tae-goo: “Why should I be the one?”
Do-wan: “Then who else?”
Tae-goo: “Should I run straight on or zigzag around and make ’em confused?”
(Do-wan stares impassively)
Tae-goo: “. . . fine, I’ll decide.”
Do-wan: “Life is about chasing and being chased. There is no escape.”
Tae-goo: “Let me sleep, man. Stop making me think!”
A few trip-ups for me, here and there, but ultimately I had a really good time watching this.
Find a proper interpreter for your treasure maps before you risk your life for them, especially when you know everyone under the bloody sun is going to come looking for you because of it.
Also, if you’re going to be a henchman for a Big Bad — well, congratulations, you’re bold, but you don’t have to be an asshole about it. Don’t insult your boss to his face unless you’re actually looking to die, okay?
18 thoughts on ““People Must Know That They’re Going to Die, and Yet They Live as Though They Never Will.””
You found “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” long-winded, but thought this was paced just fine? Really? I was really bored during this one. So far I’ve seen three movies from this director: the one you just reviewed, “I Saw The Devil” and “The Last Stand”. I enjoyed “The Last Stand” most. There’s something about this director’s style which really doesn’t speak to me somehow.
That’s funny. No, I wasn’t bored at all. I haven’t seen anything else by Kim Jee-Woon so far — although I have some minor interest in I Saw the Devil and A Tale of Two Sisters — so unfortunately I can’t really comment on the director’s aesthetic. But this one I liked.
I Saw the Devil is phenomenal. I think you’d like it a lot. Of the South Korean movies I’ve seen, it’s my favorite, and that’s saying something since South Korea has made so many kick ass movies in recent years.
I’d like to revisit The Good, The Bad, the Weird. It hasn’t really stuck with me— I can barely recall most of the moments you mention in your review— but I do remember it being a lot of fun. And I’m with you on the The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly being long-winded.
I’ll have to add I Saw the Devil to my ever-growing Netflix queue. I’m interested, but it might be a while before I see it. Still three more westerns to go, plus my sister and I have been talking about re-watching this terrible movie we saw in our childhood (and really shouldn’t have). I’m a little afraid of what that review will look like. But I’ll keep this one in mind — love me my revenge movies. 🙂
The epileptic dolphin sex of Showgirls is waiting, Carlie! Mwahahahahahaha!
Honestly though, it might not be much of a punishment. It can be pretty funny,
*actual quote, meant to be paternal* “It must be weird, not having anyone cum on ya.”
Um. Based on that description, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not brave enough for Showgirls. 🙂
Damn, does this mean it won’t be an option in the punishment poll, should you not get through the westerns?
Oh, it’ll be there. It has to be there. But I’m going to watch my westerns, dammit. It’s going to happen this time! (C’mon, willpower. I need you to be strong, just this once.)
Phew. I was wondering if I’d have to provide context to hopefully make it less terrifying and get you to reconsider. Although that would only work for the epileptic dolphin sex. The quote doesn’t make any more sense in context, and is no less gross and weird.
So… anyway… I was wondering if you’d ever played any of the Batman: Arkham Whatever games? ‘Cause you can buy the first two here for $5, along with the first one and some other games. (Or more, if you wish – it’s a pay-what-you-want thing for charity.) https://www.humblebundle.com/
This is in no way a thinly veiled attempt to use your love of Batman to distract you from finishing the westerns.
Oh yeah, I should mention that that game bundle is only available for two more days, in case you actually would want to buy it, and then you go there and find out it’s too late. Batman!
I have played the first two Batman Arkham games and loved them both, so sadly, your utterly shameless attempts at distraction will not work on me, my friend. Thank you for the thought, but if you really want me to watch Showgirls, you’ll have to try much harder than that. 🙂
…Okay. I haven’t seen I Saw The Devil, but A Tale Of Two Sisters is good? Maybe you should watch that (or I Saw The Devil. Or whatever.) and review that instead.
Random other things you may or may not find cool:
I’ve been watching It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia lately, and well, there’s an episode where the gang are investigating whether or not one of their friends is the serial killer that’s been around lately. And another episode where two of them aren’t sure whether or not they’re accidental cannibals, so they decide to break into a morgue with a hot plate and eat a bit of fried corpse for comparison’s sake. So it seems like it might have some Carlie-ish black comedy. Is it just me that finds cannibalism in fiction inherently funny?
Oh, also, Four Lions! It an excellent British comedy about religious terrorism. But not in an outlandish, South Park, lets-be-as-offensive-as-possible way. It does have quite a lot of black comedy, but it’s actually thoughtful, witty, and strangely moving, and done in a semi-realistic tone. And it has a Benedict Cumberbatch cameo, and the following quote. I don’t want to link to the trailer ’cause it has spoilers.
SWAT Guy A: [into walkie-talkie] The bear is down. Repeat, the bear is down. We got the bear.
SWAT Guy B: I think that’s a Wookie. That’s a Wookie!
SWAT Guy A: No it’s not! It’s a bear!
SWAT Guy B: [into walkie-talkie] Is a Wookie a bear, Control?
Have you heard of Empowered? It’s a mixture of superhero dramedy, fanservice, and a deconstruction of the way women are drawn and depicted in comic books. Basically it takes the most sexist damselly pornified joke of a superheroine possible, and takes a long, hard look at how that would make *her* feel. Then it adds a lot of comedy and story arcs. And also a trapped Eldritch Abomination who lives on the heroine’s coffee table, watching TV and monologuing.
You might like the 2009 movie Triangle. Except it’s really hard to talk about it – especially what makes it good – without spoiling anything. Again, I can’t link to the trailer ’cause it spoils it. Goddamnit. Okay, the main character is my third favourite final girl, which is pretty impressive given I’m even not a Melissa George fan. (Actually that’s one thing that bugs me about this movie – I imagine how it could’ve been even better, especially Jess as a character, with a more remarkable actress. Melissa George was serviceable, but still.)
Is that any more distracting?
Let’s see . . . I have mild interest in A Tale of Two Sisters, mostly because it’s one of those movies I’m supposed to watch as a horror fan. But I probably won’t get around to it for a while.
I’ve seen a few episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and they’ve been funny, but for some reason I’m never really very interested in watching it. I’m not sure what it is, exactly. It certainly doesn’t seem like the kind of show I could marathon, which is sad. I do so love marathoning. The episode you described does sound fun, though.
I am also not a huge fan of Melissa George. I’m vaguely interested in this movie that has your third favorite final girl, but I’d really rather just know who your first two favorite final girls are.
I’ve never heard of Four Lions, but that does sound kind of excellent, as does Empowered. Perhaps I will check these things out AFTER I watch my next two westerns. 🙂
My first and second favourite final girls are from The Descent and Black Water, so SPOILERS AHOY. Do you think Brigitte from Ginger Snaps counts as a final girl, though? ‘Cause I’m on the fence leaning towards no, but if I did view her as a final girl, she would be second.
(Although I feel like I’m committing a geek blasphemy just admitting to this little list, because I haven’t mentioned Nancy, Ripley, Alice, or Laurie. Oh well. At least I’m in the right place for it.)
I really feel that Sarah was a pretty interesting spin on the final girl, as her Taking A Level In Badass, after Beth’s death, comes at the cost of her sanity and humanity. She’s not scared because she’s no longer driven by the will to survive, but by her need for revenge against the crawlers, and eventually against Juno. I like that we’re given a good enough look at Juno that she’s a (IMO) sympathetic character – thoughtless and sometimes selfish, but not mean or uncaring. It makes Sarah’s actions a lot sadder and more meaningful than if Juno had been the standard horror movie group asshole.
Anyway, then once she kills Juno she basically loses that drive – she apparently gives up once she realises via dream sequence she’d have to live with the guilt of what she did hanging over her head (erm, not to mention being crazy and all her friends and family being dead and all). But you could make the argument that by hallucinating of her dead kid to keep her company while she waits to die, she’s reconnecting with her lost humanity.
Thinking of the situation in horror movie formula terms, I also find it weirdly funny, because Sarah makes herself the final girl. As in, she kills her only remaining competition. (Actually, it turns out Juno survived in the sequel, but I just pretend the sequel doesn’t exist. It sucks and it ruins the first movie’s ending.)
Black Water is an Australian horror/thriller about three people sitting in a tree near a hungry crocodile, trying to figure out how to get down without being eaten. It’s good, if you can forgive the dodgy greenscreen in some shots – in their defense, they had a pretty low budget.
This was the start of my ongoing love affair with the final girl’s actress, Maeve Dermody, who is fantabulous and a big nerd crush of mine. So you know, that is a contributing factor. And she does a great job in this movie. On a less shallow note, the character’s relationship with her sister was lovely, and I am a huge sucker for sibling relationships. If Sarah’s character arc was going from victim to tragic sorta villain, Lee’s is going from victim to tragic hero – she goes from the sorta pathetic woobie type to really going beyond the pale in an effort to escape with her injured sister, only for it to end up not mattering. Black Water has an interesting relationship with the Sliding Scale Of Idealism Vs. Cynicism. It’s portrayal of people is fairly idealistic, but the ending suggests that that isn’t always enough.
I think Triangle definitely has a more emotionally and ethically complex protagonist, at least as written, but yeah, Melissa George. And there is a short period where Triangle’s final girl just gets inexplicably stupid. Like, I don’t know why any human being, even if they were a certified moron in a panic, would go with that course of action – except to move the plot forward, of course. That’s the other thing that annoys me about this otherwise awesome movie. I wish I could talk about its awesomeness more, but I went into it not knowing much, and I really think that’s the best way to see it. Although now I’m worried that I’ve built up the mystery too much and its ruined for you anyway. Shitmuffins.
Crap. I can only hope that Showgirls will track you down and force itself upon you eventually. Like maybe it’ll come on TV right after a robber broke into your house and tied you to your couch, and for some reason also put your face in an A Clockwork Orange rig so you can’t look away. Oh, and the TV version has horrible swear-dubbing and all these CGI bras with only one shade, with no attempt made to take light and shadow into account! It’s faaaabulous. Although the TV version might also cut some stuff altogether, such as the epileptic dolphin sex. I don’t know, I’ve only seen a Youtube compilation of bad dubbing and CGI bras.
I decided to skim a lot of this, sorry, mostly because I haven’t seen Black Water or Triangle, and I thought that, for now, I would avoid the spoilers. But I’m pretty sure we’ve talked about The Descent before, because I feel I’ve already mentioned somewhere that I kind of hate your favorite final girl. 😦
SPOILERS FOR THE DESCENT. Actually, I totally agree with you that Juno is a sympathetic villain. My problem was that almost ALL my sympathy went to her (well, and the other girls not Sarah, anyway), so when our heroine, who I didn’t like, leaves Juno to die — I had a ‘throw up my hands, I’m done’ kind of moment. Which frustrates me because I feel like I should like how this plays out. There’s a lot of fighting and loyalty and mistakes and morally ambiguous choices, and that’s all good stuff, but I was so frustrated by Sarah herself that I just couldn’t get past it. (I do plan to try again, at some point, but I just haven’t gotten there yet.)
I’m trying to decide about Ginger Snaps. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but instinctually, I’d say no, even though I don’t think I’ve got a sound logical argument for why she isn’t one.
That’s fine. From what I’ve seen there are an awful lot of people who watch that movie and end up coming down entirely on Sarah or Juno’s side, with no sympathy for the other. I hope I didn’t sound like I was trying to convince you to give it another go, because I really was just trying to play out why Sarah is my own favourite final girl.
I was thinking about Ginger Snaps, and I decided that the main reasons for it not being a Final Girl movie are that there isn’t a clearly defined group being murdered, just random people, as opposed to say, Friday The 13th or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And Reason No. 2 is that it doesn’t really follow the formula. Practically all of the movie is more about Ginger getting to the point of the homicidal rampage while Brigitte tries to help. Like a teenage The Shining with werewolves. Ginger only starts deliberately killing people in the last, what, 25 minutes? Even then, she’s not a threat to Brigitte herself until the last ten minutes or so.
Nah, you didn’t sound like that at all. I’ve wanted to give it a second chance for a while now — well. I’ve been planning to give it a second chance for a while now, because other than my total lack of sympathy for Sarah, I really liked that film. It creeped me out in a way most horror films fail to do. But I just haven’t made myself do it.
Re: Ginger Snaps: yeah, that all makes sense.
When I watched ‘Ugly’ I found it was more Tuco’s story than anyone else’s. He has more screentime, more development and a more defined personality. I saw the movie for him. If I were to watch this movie, it would be for the more brutal but just as silly Tae-goo.