A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Good The Bad The Weird

March 21, 2011

The Good The Bad The Weird

Yoon Tae-goo just chose the wrong train to hold up. He’s a small time Korean thief with a past in Manchuria during the Japanese occupation. Unfortunately for him the train he is robbing has on board a Japanese envoy who has in his possession a certain map. A map that everybody seems to want. A Korean businessman has hired a notorious and heartless killer to get the map back. The entire Japanese army is after it. A group of Manchurian marauders are after it. A gang of thieves call the Ghost Market Gang want it as well. On top of it all there’s a bounty hunter who doesn’t care about the map but is after Tae-goo and the assassin Park Chang-yi.

Back before Pax East started we had a friend over to spend the night and we got to talking about our project. She recommended a few movies we didn’t have in our collection and this was one of them. It has been described (by its director) as a “kimchee western” (as opposed to a spaghetti western.) If Sergio Leone had filmed an Indiana Jones movie set in Manchuria this might have been what would have resulted. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

Well it is!! There’s a quirkiness to the Korean films we have in our collection that sets them apart. Volcano High, this movie, even the monster/horror movie The Host all have a strong comedic thread that runs through them. Tae-goo could have been a serious adventurer. He has a mysterious past with Chang-yi and a preternatural ability to survive the unsurvivable. Kang-ho Song, who plays Tae-goo, absolutely steals the movie though with his inescapable charm. Woo-Sung Jung, as the steadfast bounty hunter Park Do-won gets all the coolest stunts and gunfighting. Byung-hun Lee is wonderfully sinister and badass as Park Chang-yi. At one point early in the film I commented to Amanda that he was the Korean Johnny Depp. He has an effortless smoothness that completely sells the character.

So you have these three great actors and these three great roles, and the rest of the movie is them just playing. There’s battles on a moving train. There’s daring shootouts in a marketplace. There’s an absolute whopper of a chase scene with jeeps, horses and motorcycles as all the various parties come together in a race to reach the mysterious destination the map leads to. The action is simply unbelievable, even more so if you watch the making of features on the DVD and see just how many of the stunts were simply superhuman feats of daring-do. Particularly the astonishing Woo-Sung, who absolutely floored both me and Amanda with his ability to cock a lever action rifle on a horse at full gallop. Holy shit. Furthermore, it seems that the cameramen themselves were stuntmen of a kind with some of the amazing rigs that they had to work in.

This movie is everything a thrilling western should be. It’s got operatic meditations of good and evil. It’s got men in dusters with rifles. It’s got horses, dynamite, shootouts, trains… and it infuses the whole thing with a distinctly Korean vibe that makes it even more fun. Now if you’ll excuse me I want to watch that climactic chase scene again. Wow.


March 21, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , , ,


  1. One of those hidden gems. The weird West meets the mysterious East. Keep it right next to Silverado.

    Comment by Doc Wheat | March 22, 2011 | Reply

    • I can see how it would suit you.

      Comment by tanatoes | March 22, 2011 | Reply

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