A guksu western
Lovers of spaghetti westerns will probably like this nine-part Netflix show. It is set in Jiandao, known in Korean as Gando, now part of China, while it was under the Japanese occupation, and is what you might call a guksu western, guksu being, as I understand it, Korean spaghetti.
I didn’t much like the series but then I don’t like the spaghetti format either.
It looks quite an expensive production, with good photography of the austere Yanbian locations, which often look like Almeria.
At other times it is clumsily produced, such as when the characters, as they do often, ‘ride’ fake horses, probably jigging up and down on some contraption in the studio.
What with the lurid and very spaghetti intro credits and titles, the whole show looks stylized, which is OK if that’s your thing.
The music by Kay Kim also adds to the spaghettismo, with whistling and such. There’s also quite a bit of rock music. Maybe it’s K-pop, I wouldn’t know. The series further reminds you of spaghetti because of the dubbing, often without much lip-synching.
The heroes are bandits/independence fighters in the Pancho Villa mode, led by grizzled tough guy Choi Chung-soo (Yoo Jae-myung) who is pretty handy with a bow and arrow, and the military forces ranged against them, Diaz troops as it were, and definitely the baddies, are the Japanese. Lee Yoon (Kim Nam-gil) is the Clintish strong silent type There’s also a cynical assassin (Lee Ho-jung) in the mix. She kills people a go-go.
The South China Morning Post said, “Song of the Bandits, starring Kim Nam-gil and Seohyun, pairs the crimson violence and slick gunslingers of a Western with the melodrama of a Korean TV series.” That’s probably right. Not that I know any Korean TV shows.