The Instant Movie Club: The Good, The Bad, The Weird
Every week, your friends at Culture Blues get together to watch a movie from their Netflix Instant queue. Then, they blow opium smoke in each other’s face and answer a series of discussion questions. This is The Instant Movie Club.
This week we’re watching The Good, the Bad, the Weird, director Jee-woon Kim’s 2009 “kimchi western.” We previously watched Kim’s I Saw the Devil for the IMC, with mixed results.
Next Week: Dead Snow. It's about Nazi zombies. Maybe you've heard about it?
With a score of 69, The Good, the Bad, the Weird has a relatively positive rating on Metacritic. Glancing at the film’s few detractors, the most common complaint appears to be that GBW wears out its welcome. Were you too exhausted to enjoy the climactic triangular stand-off?
Jeff Hart: Aw, hell no. I’ll allow that GBW is almost giant-sized, weighing in at just over two hours with action that bleeds right into the credits, but never once was I bored by the proceedings. The film is colorful and joyous (but also grisly and violent), and the blend of spaghetti western influences with eastern flamboyance make it consistently a pleasure to look at. More importantly, Kim smartly varies his action sequences. No shoot out felt redundant, even when two of them take place in a very similar location, and each one escalates appropriately until we reach a massive horses and cannons chase sequence that wouldn’t seem strange in a war epic. Cool characters, stylized violence, and colorful locations – I can understand feeling worn out after all that (if you’re old?), but GBW never wears thin.
Jeremiah White: As far as I’m concerned, Kim knew exactly when to quit while he was still ahead, and those varied action sequences are key. After the horses and cannons chase, a sustained shootout between the three mains may have been too much. Instead, Kim gives viewers a quick standoff that’s tense (and funny) in its own right. It doesn’t try to top the outrageous previous scene and it’s something we haven’t seen before. That’s cunning filmmaking. GBW doesn’t wear thin, and it didn’t wear me out, but the action starts at roughly 9.5 out of 10 with the train robbery, and finishes at a 10 with the cannonball run (excluding that little denouement). There isn’t much room to breathe in there, and late plot revelations like the finger chopper’s identity and the nature of the MacGuffin are practically afterthoughts. So I guess if you don’t like epic action you might be a little bored. You also might suck.
Jee-woon Kim makes his stateside debut this week, directing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s big screen return in The Last Stand. Based on Kim’s excellent track record, is there any chance The Last Stand might actually be good?
Jeff Hart: I definitely think Kim has the talent and vision to make a movie like Total Recall; one that features a big lug like Arnold, hits all the appropriate action beats, and still manages to be interesting in ways beyond your standard blow-em-up. However, I don’t think Kim is Paul Verhoeven – he’s not a director that’s going to push Arnold (especially not a career conscious/older Arnold) into a weird creative place. In fact, I’m not sure there’s a director working that could wring something interesting from Arnold. The Last Stand is going to be Arnold playing it safe, which is a serious waste of Kim’s talent. They could’ve gotten any hack to direct Arnold shooting off a giant gun at an unstoppable monster car. Hopefully, this doesn’t doom Kim stateside, because I want to see more from him.
Jeremiah White: Given Kim’s involvement, Arnold’s capacity for self-aware humor and the supporting cast, I’m holding out hope that Last Stand will surprise as a light, entertaining action flick. It’s not going to set the cinema world on fire, and it will probably seem quaint and safe to those familiar with Kim’s work. But maybe it can turn a profit, gain critical acceptance, and allow Kim to be more adventurous with his next project. Like Jeff, I’d like to see more from him.
Good, Bad or Weird?
Jeremiah White: One of GBW’s strengths is that there’s no lame duck here. I can see viewers gravitating towards any of the three. The stoic straight arrow, the stylish sadist, or the surprisingly skilled goofball. In the final standoff, it becomes clear that the Bad is the only one motivated by something other than money or simple survival. He wants glory. As a viewer, I respect that. I just don’t respect it enough for him to overcome my love for the Weird. I mean come on, whoever finds a scuba helmet and wears it as armor in the middle of a shootout is going to win my affections every single time.
Jeff Hart: I'm not sure I agree that there isn't a lame duck. The Good is too straight-laced to really root for, and I'm really only pulling for him when he's buddying up with the Weird. Of course, in a movie as wild as GBW, you need your straight arrow - and I think the Weird falling asleep when the Good is just about to open up during their starlit heart-to-heart is Kim's tongue-in-cheek way of pointing out how dull good guys usually are. But yeah, the Weird is my dude. Song Kang-ho, who is also immensely likable in The Host, is just such a natural underdog. I defy anyone not to like him.
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