One way to look at the career of the South Korean director Kim Jee-woon would be to praise him for refusing to repeat himself; another would be to write him off as a dilettante who dabbles in one film genre after another without putting down any roots. His trajectory has not been promising: a charming knockabout comedy (“The Foul King”) was followed by a creepy but unsurprising horror movie (“A Tale of Two Sisters”) and then a slick, soulless film noir (“A Bittersweet Life”). He hits a new low with “The Good, the Bad, the Weird,” a hyper-violent action movie that takes the form of an Asian western.
The plot involves a cruel bandit, a cool bounty hunter and a wacky train robber in Japanese-occupied Manchuria in the 1930s, all far from their Korean homes and chasing after a mysterious treasure map. Throw in Chinese outlaws and the Japanese Army and you have an overstuffed, confusing narrative that’s made even harder to follow by Mr. Kim’s clumsy staging of the big action set pieces.
A few sequences, like a long shot (or shots) following the robber from car to car down the length of a moving train, have some snap, but they’re distant memories by the time you reach the endless desert chase scene and shootout that close the movie.
The ever reliable, rubber-faced Song Kang-ho plays Tae-goo, the train robber, and gives the film what little comic spark it has. Among other things, he conducts a running commentary on Korean history and character; he tells the bounty hunter that he is the most cold-hearted Korean he’s ever seen, and adds, “You’re sure to be rich.”
Directed by Kim Jee-woon; written by Mr. Kim and Kim Min-suk; director of photography, Lee Mogae; edited by Nam Na-young; music by Dalparan Chang Young-gyu; production designer, Cho Hwa-sung; costumes by Kwon Yoo-jin and Choi Eui-young; produced by Choi Jae-won and Mr. Kim; released by IFC Films. In Korean, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes. This film is not rated.
WITH: Song Kang-ho (Tae-goo), Lee Byung-hun (Chang-yi) and Jung Woo-sung (Do-wxon).