The Good, The Bad and the Weird (Joheunnom nabbeunnom isanghannom)
The trailer showed an extremely stylish film with long action takes, sweeping camera zooming you right into the action, and there's plenty of it too, and to top it all a strong line-up of actors.
It seemed a great film to watch on Blu-ray, style, big shots, great action, it seemed perfectly suited to the high definition screen.
The opening sequence is fantastic and carries some great opening credits which really set you up for the rest of the film.
From this sequence the style is at the fore with the camera swooping with the bird down from the bright blue sky and into the steam train racing across the desert tracks. The camera comes straight into carriages and right behind one of the characters as he walks along the carriages and the action begins.
Throughout the film the camera is flowing with the action and the characters, always running, always on the move, pulling the audience straight into the middle of the action and throwing them around.
There's good use of CGI, although sometimes it does feel a little too much, and there's innovative use of digital zooms and unusual camera set-ups which do make the film look and feel very frenetic and fast paced.
However sometimes it's a little too frantic and it can get difficult to tell what exactly is happening and who is shooting at who when all the gangs get involved in the action. Yet even despite the uncertainty of who is in what gang and shooting at who, it is still very exciting to watch and delivers some amazing action sequences in amongst what could have been a standard shoot-out.
There are a couple of scenes that stick in my mind the most for the innovative filming and unique style, there's the train sequences at the beginning of the film, the big gunfight in the Ghost Market, and the desert chase sequences. They really do show off the talent and imagination of the film-makers, and of the actors involved.
The final battle scene is both over the top and exciting with plenty of action that definitely puts Hollywood to shame.
However the build up to the big battle at the end feels a little overdone and does takes too long to set-up, and in the end it's also a little dissatisfying as you're not entirely sure which character is still alive, why, and what the outcome of the story really is.
It's not all action and style however, there's comedy to be had too, and right along with the action and the story, mainly provided by the oddball Weird, played by Song Kang-ho who'll you'll recognise from Gwoemul aka The Host (Filmstalker review) and the upcoming Thirst (Bakjwi), and some from the deadpan performance of Jung Woo-sung. The diving helmet scene had me laughing out loud, and what other western can say that?
Talking of the actors, and the three leads are really good, I have to pick out Lee Byung-hun for his excellent performance and the superb styling behind his character that really does make him look every inch the bad guy. Yet he's not the hate-able bad guy, at some moments in the film you find yourself siding with him and connecting with his character.
The characters are great, but I found the weakest to be the the Good character who really doesn't have much of a depth or background to him, and in fact there's not much for him to really do other than race around and be the archetypal western good guy looking mean and moody.
The cinematography is superb with some epic shots that are positively filled with depth and detail and it looks utterly fantastic on the fantastic 1080p picture full of rich colour.
DTS 5.1 HD
The DTS 5.1 HD track has plenty to offer as it makes great use of surround sound and particularly the rear speakers. The audio travels as much as the camera does and really draws you into the action just as the camera does. I love the fact that there's as much care put into the audio track as there has been the cinematography and the camera work.
Making of; Interview with Director and Cast; Cinematography, Lighting, Action sequences and Sound featurette; Production Design, Costumes, Set Decoration featurette; Deleted Scenes; Alternate Endings
This is perhaps the longest making of featurette I've ever seen, running at an hour and a half and packed full of information for the film fan. It talks to the director, stars, action choreographers, director of photography and so on, taking us through all the major sequences in the film and some minor ones too.
There were plenty of cameras on set, even in the script read through sessions, to provide plenty of behind the scenes footage, and by the time we make it to the end we feel like we've completed a part of the journey with them.
This is more than a featurette, this is a documentary of the film making.
Interview with Director and Cast
Short and sometimes revealing insight into the lead actors and director and what they thought of the film. I do wish there was more of this as it looked like it could get quite insightful with the leads and writer\director interviewing each other in a sometimes prickly atmosphere.
Cinematography, Lighting, Action sequences and Sound
This featurette is a bit misleading as it's just about the sound aspect of the film, but it's done rather well and has some interesting pieces on how the audio is created and how it utilises the surround sound element. It takes a key sequence from the film and works through it revealing how each sound level is added on top of each other to give the final sound. Very interesting although it would have been good with some more structure around it.
Production Design, Costumes, Set Decoration
An interesting featurette that looks at the work put into the costumes and set designs, quite a lot of work as it turns out.
There are plenty of deleted scenes for those that like to see such things, and they'll keep you going for some time. You can see why the running time of the original cut was so long, something referred to in the interviews. The scenes are taken from throughout the film and add many more layers to the story, and in some cases feel as though they could have given more depth to the characters and understanding to some of the story.
There are four alternate endings to watch one after the other. As they play you can watch all four on the same time frame in a film strip beneath, all in all it's rather a nice feature. However it has a surprise, in more ways than one. First there's a fifth alternate ending to be had, and the second is the fact that it's much better than all the other endings, including the one we see on screen.
The film is exciting both visually, acoustically and story wise. Some cool characters and good performances throughout, the film looks fantastic. It's filled with style galore from the camera work to the costumes, and innovative use of the camera throughout make it a particularly exciting film to watch. Let's not forget the obvious fact that it's a Korean western, that's something special in itself.
It has faults though, and the story needs more in the middle and at the end to be a bit more cohesive as well as a completely different ending. Some of that does come on the strong Blu-ray offering which has some great extras.
All in all I'd say this is a great film to watch if you like something different in your action genre, and this certainly provides that along with great picture and sound to boot.