November 8th, 2008

The Best Movie of 2008

Pardon my flack-like behavior today, but I saw a movie this week that I just can't stop raving about.

Remember A TALE OF TWO SISTERS? Maybe you even saw Kim Ji-Woon's earlier THE FOUL KING, or later A BITTERSWEET LIFE. Well, none of these could prepare you for Kim's new one, THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD. This is hardly a simple pastiche of Leone, although there are plenty of nods to the Italian maestro.

What it is for me is a reimagining of the action movie as something that is FUN. Holy cow. Fun? What's that? I think I remember a time when action movies were fun, back before Westerns became entrenched in sepia-toned plains ridden by macho-posturing wounded men who spent a lot of time bemoaning the sins of the past. THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD is colorful, fast, beautifully shot and edited, and anchored by a brilliant comic performance from Song Kang-ho (some of you may remember him as "Blondie" in THE HOST). The humor is integrated perfectly here, with neither the mean-spirited vulgarity of some travesty like SHOOT 'EM UP, nor the arch smarminess of Tarantino.

Hey, if you don't believe me, just take a look at the trailer:

Now expand that over the length of an entire film, and you'll never want it to end.

I have no idea if this sprawling masterpiece of insanity will get an American release or not. It'll be a frigging crime if it doesn't, because it blasts any recent American action or western film into smithereens. It's also a film that deserves a big screen, because you'll want to drown in the saturated colors, delightfully cluttered production design and those swooping shots (and just for the girls - can I just say that I would be happy to have a desert encounter with either of the other two leads, the villainous and ear-ringed Lee Byung-hun or the husky and hunky Jung Woo-sung?).

And yes - that dance version of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" really is in the film. And (impossibly) it works.

Kim Ji-woon is well on his way to becoming my favorite filmmaker. THE QUIET FAMILY, THE FOUL KING, A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, A BITTERSWEET LIFE...and this. I can't wait to see what he does next.