Sunday, October 10, 2010

2 Reviews: The Good, the Bad, and the Weird & Pig Hunt

Joheunnom Nabbeunnom Isanghannom

“THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE WEIRD” is set during the Japanese occupation of Korea and northern Manchuria with all the trappings of a traditional “spaghetti” Western. The Good (Woo-Sung Yung) is a fairly straight laced bounty hunter on the trail of a number of outlaws. The Bad (Byung-hun Lee) is an outlaw and assassin with a checkered reputation for cruelty. He is sent by a crooked employer to steal back a map from the Japanese representatives of a bank in the northern mainland. His plan to rob their train goes awry when another outlaw hits the Japanese train car first, introducing The Weird. Yoon Tae-Goo (Kang-ho Sung) is a fairly comedic loser pulling a number of small jobs when he manages to get his hands on a coveted map. The rest of the story involves a race to secure the map and find the “treasure” to which it leads. The three main characters are pursued by Korean Rebels, the Japanese Army, and outlaw criminals hoping to cash in.

Though we have three main characters, it’s really The Weird who stands out as the heroic scoundrel with his eye toward the prize. A mysterious past and a bizarre reputation for survival seem a little hard to believe as you watch him stumble across one good fortune after another. His fumbling across the desert toward his goal and the consistency to which he seems to fall one step behind everyone else seems to prove the adage that fortune favors the foolish. Stunt work highlights the antics of the Good. He swings and leaps from rooftop to rooftop, rides herd on the entire Japanese army, and blasts away at the thuggish outlaws with his trusty rifle. “The Bad” is a sadist, murdering friends and foes alike to fill the emptiness within him. He has little interest in the map, however. He pursues the Fool for a past slight, a loss that has not been forgotten in a great many years.

Dealing the goods on Asian-style action cinema, THE GOOD sets the mythic Western on fire with a number of inspired twists on familiar sequences. The classic train robbery, a visit to a house of ill repute, and cowboy style vigilante justice takes a step toward the East. The Japanese occupation is reminiscent of America’s own Civil War period and the Cavalry charges from Army outposts. A blend of traditional “Moricone”-inspired themes play throughout the film with a number of soft jazz themes and disco twists. The amazing soundtrack builds on the already wonderful action sequences and creating an atmosphere that settles this western firmly in the East. Director Ji-woon Kim (Tale of Two Sisters) continues to prove that he is a force to be reckoned with for future releases.

4 out of 5.

Pig Hunt:

Joining the “After Dark” festival and Sam Raimi’s “Ghost House Releasing”, Fangoria’s Fright Fest is this years Halloween series of “independent” horror releases coming straight to DVD for major distribution. James Isaac’s (Jason X, Skinwalkers)“Pig Hunt” seemed the most promising title in the bunch; a crazy blend of backwoods horror and monster animal stalking. John Hickman’s (Travis Aaron Wade) uncle used to take him hunting as a boy, so the young man decides to pay a visit to the old cabin and bring along a bunch of friends for their first hunting trip together. Once in the woods they hear the story of “The Ripper”, the monster pig that may have been the cause of his Uncles’ death. The premise introduces a couple of San Francisco “city slickers” heading out for a weekend hunting trip. John brings his girlfriend along, they run across some backwoods hippies, a pair of redneck brothers sharing a troubled past with the films lead, and a mythical Hogzilla type of monster who randomly stalks and kills various characters. The promotional material promises a gory horror comedy DVD, but only manages to get one of those adverbs right. The film is certainly gory, but even that does not save the film from its many faults.

Pig Hunt, how do I approach thee? You have all the makings of a wild and crazy backwoods horror comedy, complete with colorful characters and a soundtrack by the legendary Les Claypool. Why, then, do you waste nearly an hour of your precious film stock with the characters walking through the woods? I understand that they were trying to build some sort of tension, but it never really pays off. Some of the “Boys” don’t like the girlfriend (Tina Huang), the redneck brothers don’t like the main character, the girlfriend feels a little out of place, and none of it makes any real sense. The group dynamic seems to have no real reason to be angry with one another, even going so far as to explain the Redneck brothers’ history and then blowing it off as a somewhat meaningless childhood accident. The truth is, these people are just tense and frustrated and maybe a little spoiled. The more time spent on building tension, the more we realize that these people have no reason at all to be tense with one another except for the fact that the story requires it. A little tighter cut would have probably done much more to drive the film forward, but it just sort of meanders along to the catchy music and delivers a bunch of gory kills between scenes of dialogue.

As far as the Fangoria Fright Fest goes, Pig Hunt delivers a fairly standard little bit no more or less exciting than the average direct to DVD feature. I didn’t find anything special, but the film delivers on gore with a few decent performances outside the completely bland main characters. The Redneck brothers come off as one part creepy and another part common sense intelligent, making it hard to tell if they were supposed to be villains or not. This is one where I’m bound to find a couple of people thinking that I’m insane to have not liked the film, but the truth is that I just didn’t find it all that interesting.

2.5 out of 5.

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