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Film review: 'Good' is odd, enthralling 'ramen Western'

Published: Thursday, May 13 2010 3:01 p.m. MDT

"The Good, the Bad, the Weird" offers plenty of action.

CJ Entertainment Inc.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD — ★★★1/2 — Song Kang-ho, Lee Byung-hun, Jung Woo-sung; with English subtitles (Korean and Asian dialects); not rated, probable R (violence, gore, torture, profanity, slurs, vulgarity, brief sex); Broadway Centre

"The Good, the Bad, the Weird" manages to be both a spoof and an affectionate homage to the so-called "spaghetti Westerns" of the '60s and '70.

That's not an easy thing to do. And what makes it even more difficult is knowing that, judging from this film's title, it's trying to duplicate the look and feel of 1966's "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" — the best-known and arguably best film of the bunch.

What's not as obvious is that a film this odd and goofy could be this enthralling. This violent but fun "ramen Western" will appeal to fans of the original genre, as well as fans of both Chinese filmmaker Stephen Chow ("Kung-Fu Hustle") and Quentin Tarantino (the "Kill Bill" movies).

The three title characters are, respectively, Park Do-won (Jung Woo-sung), Park Chang-yi (Lee Byung-hun, form "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra") and Yoon Tae-goo (Song Kang-ho).

The latter man, the so-called "weird" one, has gotten his hands on a map that may reveal the location of a lost Qing dynasty treasure.

But he may not have much time to find that treasure. Both the determined Do-won and the deadly Chang-yi are already after him.

This film starts with a real bang, with a thrilling and lengthy train heist, chase and shoot-out sequence that would be the highlight of many movies. But there's still more to it than that, including a shoot-out scene in which a vastly outnumbered Do-won and Tae-goo become reluctant partners.

And of the three characters, co-screenwriter/director Kim Ji-Woon opts to focus on the "weird" character, whose morality is debatable. Veteran Kang-ho ("Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance") does make him a charismatic, likable guy.

"The Good, the Bad, the Weird" is not rated but would probably receive an R for strong, sometimes disturbing violent content and imagery (gunplay and shootings, knife and sword play, stabbings and slashings, vehicular mayhem, fiery and explosive mayhem, violence against women and child-in-peril elements), gory and bloody imagery, scenes depicting torture and interrogation (including mutilation), scattered strong profanity, derogatory language and slurs (some of them sexist in nature), a few crudities and off-color references (mostly slang), and some brief sexual contact. Running time: 130 minutes.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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