For any film buff the title alone automatically brings this South Korean film into the Spaghetti Western milieu of good guy versus bad guy archetypes. And that is exactly what this film is. Add the Tarantino incarnations to the genre and you get closer to what Kim Jee-woon has done with this original take.
The "weird" can be from a Western viewpoint the Manuchurian setting or the villanous Japanese army flapping the Rising Sun flag on their jeeps as bands of "Free Korea" rebels bomb, murder, and mainly chase the dream of wealth and the good life as Yoon Tae Goo, one of the films main protagonists confesses round the campfire: a farm, some sheep and chickens (maybe ducks, since they make constant cameo appearances). Now that I know a bit of East Asian history it isn't weird at all, but playing on history.
The film didn't feel weird at all. Even though the wardrobe team stretched the way some of the characters dressed by making them look more 21st Century than the mid 1920s, it fit with the contemporay editing and action sequences that kept the movie movng a la action adventure film. When the film slowed down subtleties slide in to make sure we knew this was an East Asian story while playing homage to Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood, and Quentin Tarantino.
For example, in the same campfire scene after Yoon Tae Goo falls asleep, the "Good Guy", who is an identical carbon copy of Eastwood's drifter persona, says: "We are always chasing something and someone is chasing after us."
All parties are chasing a map that early in the film is stolen on a locomtive from the evil Japanese before a renegade Korean gang, who had plans to steal the map also, are beaten to the possible riches, therefore setting off the story. Along the beautifully stylized fight sequences and blood splaterring deaths it is hard to keep pace with who is who--is it the Chinese, the Japanese, the Koreans that have the map now? The characters themselves need to ask, Are you Korean? Chinese?
Another subplot is the number of Koreans that have left the island because of a mysterious past back home. Just like the recurring ducks, another theme is the "I have never seen such a mean and viscious Korean" line. Along the way, the same line comes up and is accented with "because you are so mean and viscious you will definetily be rich some day". The not so subtle hint is played with throughout. Having Chinese, Japanese, and Korean characters, some on motorbikes and jeeps, others on horses and on foot while using machine guns, battle axes, chains, and knives, or ancient spikes on ropes, while blowing a golden Manchurian horn, also hints at another theme. Maybe a stab on how tecnological and cultural difference (or, possiby ethnic privilege), while chasing the same wealth of a map, contributes to one’s status and place in society. This is just a sketch. Like all good films there is plenty 좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈 has to offer on multiple viewings. May u enjoy them.
Enjoyably entertaining! On the Galindo 5 Star scale, a strong 4 Stars for “The Good, The Bad, The Weird”.