Reel Rumbles #30: “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” vs. “The Good, the Bad, the Weird”
What’s the greatest western ever made? More times than not, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly will be near the top of that list. It is heralded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest western of all-time. So what happens when a Korean film-maker decides to remake the film and change some things around? We get The Good, The Bad, The Weird. Let us get our ringside seats and watch a shoot-out, knock-down, good ol’ western brawl.
Round One: The Story
The plot in these films remains relatively the same. The settings are a bit different with one being set during the United States civil war era, and the other being set in China during WWII. The final third of Ugly is a bit more interesting as the main characters must decide if they want to help each other or not. Each holds some piece of information. In the Weird, it is mostly just fighting over a map. However, there is really only one piece of the story which really makes any difference: the ending.
The Ugly has a mexican standoff ending between the three leads which is an epic scene to behold. The standoff is rather deflating when we realize Blondie/The Good (Clint Eastwood) has taken the bullets out of Tuco/The Ugly’s (Elli Wallach) gun. However, the long building and pacing of the scene completely sells the standoff. The Weird settles for what could be argued is the more realistic and less realistic ending. Yoon Tae-Goo/The Weird (Song Kang-ho), Park Chang-yi/The Bad (Lee Byung-hun), and Park Do-won/The Good (Jung Woo-sung) are all ready to kill one another for various reasons.In The Ugly however, the anger between Tuco and Blondie is nowhere near the anger between Angel Eyes/The Bad (Lee Van Cleef) and Blondie.
The Ugly is a much slower movie than The Weird and this pacing continues to the final scene. However, when the standoff happens and the bullets whiz by, it’s over quickly and it works very well. The Weird is quick paced with about 3 action sequences lasting 20 minutes a piece. So when the final standoff turns out to be a long plodding affair, the payoff is much less that of The Ugly
Ugly takes the round: 10-9.
Round 2: Script
The Ugly has a number of side stories written into it which helps keep our interest in the slow paced film. There is the beautiful duality of Tuco and his brother who have chosen far different paths in their life. Of course Tuco passionately tried to defend his actions. There is the civil war battle near the end with the bridge scene. The entire film seems to be pointing out while there is good, bad, and ugly, everything tends to be ugly. As for the dialogue in the film, there are some great lines but there are some moments where the sparsity seems to not work.
The Weird is a more straightforward film with less dichotomies. While there is a simpler story to it, the visuals we are presented are fabulous. While there are a few great scenes in The Ugly, almost every second of The Weird is a beauty to watch. Added to the great visuals is the hilarious dialogue of Yoon Tae-goo and the narrator-esque guide of the Black-Market Gang. These two elements give the film a little more bite to it.
Weird takes the round: 10-9.
Round 3: Performances
The Ugly has three fantastic actors in Eastwood, Wallach, and Van Cleef. In this film Eastwood fills his role of Blondie admirably and Van Cleef is menacing as Angel Eyes. However, it is Wallach who shines. He of course provides us which some laughter, but one could say he’s almost as sinister as Van Cleef. Wallach shows major chops in the scenes with Tuco’s brother, and Wallach plays the scene to perfection. Those few scenes alone show us the true ugliness of the world these men live in.
The Weird‘s performances play out similar to The Ugly. Jung Woo-sung displays a solid effort in his portrayal of The Good. Song Kang-ho is brilliant in his portrayal of the Weird. He seems less sinister than Wallach’s Tuco, but much of this can be attributed to the more slapstick humor in The Weird compared to The Ugly. Finally, there is one standout amongst all the performances in either movie, and it’s Lee Byung-hun’s The Bad. He has all the menacing nature of Angel Eyes and “bad” behavior. However, his appearance on screen always brings a feeling of dread … sometimes it’s a look or an action. There is one specific scene halfway through the film when one of his gang members jokes over dinner about how he heard Byung-hun wasn’t the best in a shootout. The look he gives his gang member says everything the audience needs to know about his character.
Weird takes the round: 10-9.
Round 4: Directing
Sergio Leone, director of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, was relatively unknown when he started his Man With No Name trilogy. At the time it was released, Ugly was a film with mediocre reviews. Much of this was due to the violent deaths in the film. However, over time, it has come to be regarded as a classic, and one a few definitive westerns. The film also helped move Leone into Hollywood where he would next make Once Upon a Time in the West, which is also regarded as one of the best westerns to have ever been made.
The Good, The Bad, the Weird is the 7th film by Korean director Kim Ji-woon. Ji-woon’s other films are also genre films as The Weird is, having made a gangster film and a horror film previously. However, The Weird was Ji-woon’s major breakout film, with a budget of 10 million USD (grossing 40 million). Ji-woon uses the money wisely by putting together some terrific action sequences which are shot beautifully. As The Ugly put Leone on the map, The Weird has helped put Ji-woon on the map. However, at the end of the day, it’s tough to beat an all-time great.
Ugly takes the round: 10-9.
Bonus Round: Music
From the moment the film starts, Ennio Morricone’s brilliant score sweeps you away into a violent, deadly, and bloody old west. There may be no movie theme more recognizable than the opening theme of the Ugly. The rest of the score is fantastic as well. It is easy to see why Leone and Morricone worked together on so many films, as the sometimes chaotic and sometimes peaceful nature of Morricone’s music fits so well with the chaotic and peaceful sections of Leone’s films.
The Weird’s score by Dalparan, much like the film itself, blends genres together, whereas Morricone’s score tends to stay focused. The blending seems to work for the Weird, as the western instrumentation along with what can be described as electronica-style moods is well put together. However, at certain times, the frenetic nature of the score can be a little distracting. For this reason, and the fact Morricone’s score is such a classic and held in high regard, it cannot win.
Result: Ugly takes the round: 10-9.
And the Winner is…
You cannot hold the fact it’s a remake against The Good, The Bad, and the Weird. It is a fantastically well made movie which should give some great ideas to future western films. However, it’s tough to go up against a film regarded as one of the best of all time by Quentin Tarantino, a film which solidified Clint Eastwood’s, Sergio Leone’s, and Ennio Morricone’s places in film history, a film which at the end of the day proves being ugly is better than being weird.
The undisputed champion of this drag down western fight: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.