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The Good, the Bad, the Weird(2008)
Set in 1930s Japanese occupied Manchuria, tells the story of three Joseon mounted bandits who get their hands on a treasure map, only to be pursued by the army of national independence, who believe that the outlaws have a map for a new railway to be built by the Japanese army.
For more about The Good, the Bad, the Weird and the The Good, the Bad, the Weird Blu-ray release, see the The Good, the Bad, the Weird Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 25, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Byung-hun, Jung Woo-Sung, Ryu Seung-su, Zhang Qi, Yoon Jae-Moon
Director: Kim Jee-woon
» See full cast & crew
The Good, the Bad, the Weird Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 25, 2009
Kim Ji-woon's wacky but utterly entertaining "The Good, the Bad, the Weird" (2008) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of UK-based distributors Icon Home Entertainment. The disc contains the 130-minute "Argentinean" cut of the film, not the shorter Cannes Film Festival version. It also contains more than 50 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes. Most unfortunately for Region-A film aficionados, it is Region-B "locked".
While robbing a train, Yoon Tae-goo (the Weird) accidentally steals an ancient map revealing where the Quin Dynasty's notorious treasure is hidden. He runs away with it but is immediately followed by the merciless Park Chang-yi (the Bad) and his gang, who have been paid to steal the map. Yoon Tae-goo is also followed by Park Do-won (the Good), a bounty hunter who wants his head.
The three end up in the notorious Ghost Market – a place in the middle of Manchuria where all sorts of outlaws, crooks and deadbeats reside. Yoon Tae-goo has no idea what the map reveals and wants to sell it as quickly as possible. Park Chang-yi knows that the map is worth a lot more than what he is paid to deliver it and wants it for himself. Park Do-won does not know much about the map and is only interested in nabbing Yoon Tae-goo.
Things get complicated when another gang of bandits learns about Yoon Tae-goo's map. They begin chasing him not realizing that Park Chang-yi and his goons are already after him. The Japanese Army also gets involved in the map hunt – they are convinced that the Quin Dynasty's treasure would help them strengthen their grip on Manchuria.
Yoon Tae-goo befriends Park Do-won. The two temporarily manage to evade Park Chang-yi, but not the bandits from the Ghost Market and the Japanese army. A wild chase ensues in the middle of the Manchurian desert where only the best would survive to claim the Quin Dynasty's treasure.
Director Kim Ji-woon is fairly well known on this side of the Atlantic. His A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) and A Bittersweet Life (2005) have received a warm reception by those who follow Korean cinema closely. The director's latest film, The Good, the Bad, the Weird is a departure from his fascination with the horror genre, but it will only further strengthen his image amongst fans and critics – the film is impressively directed, exceptionally well lensed and thoroughly original.
What transforms The Good, the Bad, the Weird into a terrific experience, however, is the acting. Veteran actor Song Kang-ho (Memories of Murder), who plays the Weird, does a superb job of infusing the film with plenty of light humor that truly adds a special flavor to the story. His facial expressions are absolutely hilarious. The more reserved Jung Woo-sung (Musa the Warrior) is just as effective as the Good, especially during the second half of the film where he shows us how skillful he is with his rifle. Lee Byung-hun (Everybody has Secrets), who plays The Evil, is just as convincing. He is a terrific villain who just about steals the show from the enigmatic Song Kang-ho.
As it was the case with A Tale of Two Sisters, the emphasis on detail in The Good, the Bad, the Weird is impressive. The Ghost Market and its inhabitants in particular look fantastic (the elaborate period costumes for example are very effective). On the other hand, the action sequences are amongst the best I have seen in recent Asian cinema (the actors did their own stunts and there are absolutely no CGIs whatsoever).
Cinematographers Lee Mo-gae and Oh Seung-chul's contribution is invaluable. The long chase footage from the Manchurian desert - where the two gangs, the Japanese army and the three protagonists clash - is spectacular (many will be reminded of Dean Semler and his contribution to The Road Warrior). The original soundtrack by Dalparan and Jang Yeong-gyu, blending exotic Latino tunes with sublime electronica, is also top-notch.
The Good, the Bad, the Weird Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Kim Ji-woon's The Good, the Bad, the Weird arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of UK-based distributors Icon Home Entertainment.
The AVC-encoded transfer is pleasing. Contrast is exceptionally strong, sharpness levels adequate and edge-enhancement not a serious issue of concern (there are a couple of scenes, mostly from the desert battles, where some thicker lining becomes noticeable but, overall, the transfer looks very good when blown through a digital projector). The color-scheme is also very impressive, though I must note that there are quite a few color manipulations in The Good, the Bad, the Weird that I am unsure how to evaluate. Particularly during the Ghost Market clash, there are some beautiful but very strange colors. For example, the sky goes from light gray to deep purple, etc. This being said, I also detected a bit of mild contrast boosting, which some of you may notice during the panoramic vistas from the second half of the film. On the other hand, you will see plenty of healthy (light) film grain. Finally, there are no disturbing scratches, debris, or specks to report in this review. All in all, I am very pleased with this Blu-ray disc and have absolutely no problem recommending it to you. For the record, the disc contains the 130-minute "Argentinean" cut of the film. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" release. Therefore, in order to access its content, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free player).
The Good, the Bad, the Weird Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: Korean (with bits of Mandarin and Japanese) DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 track. I opted for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and later on did a few random comparisons with the Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 track for the purpose of this review.
Icon Home Entertainment have supplied a top-notch DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The bass is rich and potent, the rear channels very active (especially during the desert fights from the second half of the film) and the high-frequencies not artificially sharpened. This being said, balance isn't an issue of concern either – you definitely won't have to reach for your remote control and adjust the volume every couple of minutes. Additionally, the dialog is crisp, clean and very easy to follow. The original soundtrack by Dalparan and Jang Yeong-gyu sounds terrific as well, and I certainly did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or hissings to report in this review.
Generally speaking, the Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 track sounds good. I used mostly scenes from the second half of the film to compare it to the Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and, as far as I am concerned, the biggest difference between the two is in the bass activity. As mentioned earlier, The Good, the Bad, the Weird is a film with strong surround and bass activity and the Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 track simply cannot match the intensive sound the Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track allows. On the other hand, the dialog is practically identical on both tracks. For the record, Icon Home Entertainment have provided imposed English subtitles for the main feature that appear inside the image frame.
The Good, the Bad, the Weird Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are a number of terrific supplemental features on this Blu-ray disc. Please note that only the ones marked below as 1080p are viewable on US TV sets; all other extras are in standard-def PAL. Therefore, you need to have a Blu-ray player that converts PAL-NTSC, or a multi-system TV set, in order to view them.
Running Fast (Making Of) – Director Kim Jee-woon talks about his desire to shoot a film where Western and Sci-fi elements are blended together after her saw a cult 70s Western called "Break Up The Chain" which was directed by Lee Man-hee. He also talks about the numerous challenges his team had to overcome while shooting the film. (With imposed English subtitles, PAL) (91 min).
The Good, the Bad, the Weird and the Vicious (Interview with the director and the cast) – cast and crew members recall the production process. There is plenty of raw footage here from the final shoots. (With imposed English subtitles, PAL) (19 min).
Analogue (Cinematography, Lighting, Action Sequences, Sound) - Sound supervisor Choi Tae-young talks about different aspects of the film's technical portfolio (With imposed English subtitles, PAL) (14 min).
Space (Production Design, Costumes, Set Decoration) – Production designer Cho Hwa-sung talks about the period decors and costumes. There are also parallel comparisons between the storyboards he was asked to work with and the final footage used in the film. (With imposed English subtitles, PAL) (11 min).
Deleted Scenes – "The Tragic End of Mr. Park", "Do-won's Dream and Song-yi's Feelings", "Order of the Independence Fighters", "Man-gil and Steamed Buns", "Ambush", "Chang-yi's Body and his Brutal Nature", "The Wrong Map", "Tae-gu's Hallucination", "The Identity of the Map", "The Secret of the Finger Chopper", "Tri-nation gang's activity", "The Duel between Double Blades and Song-yi", "Hallucination of Exhausted Tae-gu", "Betrayal of Chang-yi's Gang", "Epiloque: Byumg-choon's Dream". (With imposed English subtitles, PAL) (44 min).
Alternate Endings – A collage of four alternate endings. The fourth one in particular is hilarious, do not miss it. (With imposed English subtitles, PAL) (8 min).
Trailers – Actually, there is only one trailer here for Icon's upcoming release of Push (1080p).
The Good, the Bad, the Weird Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
What a wild film. When the critics began reporting from the Cannes Film Festival last year - where The Good, the Bad, the Weird was first screened - that this was one of the wackiest Westerns to be made in a very long time, they certainly weren't kidding. It is crazy, it is funny, it is original, it is beautiful, it is exceptionally well acted. The hype was more than justified, folks!
The Blu-ray disc herein reviewed looks and sounds great. It is also loaded with special features that are very informative. As far as I am concerned, Icon Home Entertainment have done an outstanding job with this release. Of course, we strongly recommend it!
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