This macho-mad movie includes an icily gorgeous bounty hunter (who shoots while standing up on his horse), an attractive but demonic gang leader with a hideous temper, and a goofy train robber on a motor scooter (miraculously dodging every bullet flying directly at him). Together, these three are the good, bad, and weird.
Although ostensibly about finding a treasure based on a map, the film features characters so definable you won’t need any diagram to figure out who’s who. Do-Won (Jung Woo-Sung) is easily ID’d as the good guy because of his clean-cut sexy looks. As he swaggers in his long overcoat, toting an even longer rifle, he reveals a delicately shy smile. Meanwhile, Chang-Yi (Lee Byung-Hun) wears trendy black threads along with a perpetual sneer, and a lock of hair that hangs annoyingly over one eye. Unmistakably, the weird one is thief Tae-Goo (Song Kang-Ho). Reminiscent of an early Jackie Chan, he’s the comic relief for the gruesome bloodbath that dominates most of this movie.
For the squeamish, this film also offers up a history lesson. Set in 1930’s Manchuria, it touches on past politics of the region and various ethnic groups that jockeyed for positions of power then. Especially notable is the casting of homely actors as enemy Japanese soldiers. Juxtaposed against the pretty faces of the Korean cowboys, their ugly mugs are conspicuous.
Colorful costumes and locations exhibit authenticity, but actresses’ limited roles reflect the sexist attitudes of those times. Other than a beloved grandmother, women are portrayed as eye-candy tramps not to be trusted.
Opens May 7 at the Varsity Theater, 4329 University Way NE., Seattle, WA 98105-5808.