Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
At first glance, The Good, the Bad, the Weird seemed like a title wisely orphaned on the whiteboard of terrible Aughts parodists Friedman and Seltzer. Instead, Kim Jee-woon’s 2008 action-Western odyssey channeled the weary cynicism, entrancing visuals and vivid violence of the Sergio Leone source material from which it took its name.
The plot concerned pursuit of a presumed treasure map across pre-World War II Manchuria. Also like Leone, that was merely a MacGuffin for mayhem perpetrated by a dead-shot do-gooder (Jung Woo-sung), a dastardly slice-and-dicer (Lee Byung-hun) and a wacky thief with dumb luck (Song Kang-ho).
The sort of film where people barreled through doors only to be blasted back through them, Weird initially ignited with a loud larkishness akin to Gore Verbinski. But it boasted bone-deep brutality in a way that belied its buoyancy but never betrayed it — invoking scrappiness, desperation and improvisation inherent to Manchurian life under multiple thumbs. As Kim also learned from the master: If a thumb lifts, another simply presses down harder.
A perfectly timed comic gag of what awaited at the map’s destination hammered home the pointlessness of these men’s pursuit; indeed, it was something to which no individual could lay claim. That didn’t mean getting there couldn’t be fun for the viewer, as Kim unleashed bravura setpieces — culminating in a mad scramble involving mares, motorcars and many rounds of bullets. Also paying homage to that wonderful madman George Miller, The Good, the Bad, the Weird delivered one of the century’s greatest sustained action sequences.