Lee Byung-hun did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Park Chang-yi aka The Bad in The Good The Bad The Weird.
Lee rather embraces it then amplifies it all the more. This film is obviously heavily influenced by the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone which in turn were heavily influenced by Kurosawa's Yojimbo. Lee's own work seemed to have had this in mind as his villainous work is less akin to Gian Maria Volante or Lee Van Cleef's performances of Leone's films, and closer to the gun wielding samurai played by Tatsuya Nakadai in that progenitor film. That is not to say Lee simply rips off to what Nakadai did, but rather pays homage to it in the best of ways. The central idea he seems to have taken from that performance was Nakadai's snakelike demeanor. Lee fashions this himself through his own angular smile that just is so fiendish it would have to adorn a villain. The idea of such a smile though is reflected in the entirety of Lee's performance which is that the titular bad, Park Chang-yi, quite enjoys being as such. Lee's work though uses that as a starting point but not as a crutch, and does take the performance in his own direction in a way really in a way only Lee could. As with all of Lee's work his physicality is an essential element. Although he does far less martial arts here than in his leading turns, the way Lee moves is so important here in his character. Lee delivers such a brilliant grandiose swagger that just commands every frame he finds himself it. Lee captures this sense of a proper sort of villain, who knows he's a villain, and isn't just happy to show it off, it is almost as though needs to do so.
Lee's physical approach is an ever prescient element of the character that makes Chang-yi standout in every scene he is in. In that it isn't even just his walk, even the way he may be sitting in a chair has this certain brilliant style to it. In that Lee manages to find this intensity in the exact manner he projects this ease of menace. I love the instance of meeting his employer technically speaking if you were to describe the actions they would seem ridiculous, as Chang-yi is hunched over, with his hair covering one eye as he glances at the man. It could be absurd yet Lee finds just the precise manner to only find a real incisive yet casual quality in this manner, and even one would describe as a sense of cool with the character. I will say I have particularly great affection for what Lee can do with that single eye in that he delivers such a killer intensity within it. That intensity though also is credit to again the variety of Lee's work in his films with Kim. In that he gave intense performances in his two leading roles yet in generally are far more internalized fashion. Lee shows his comfort in completely turning that on its head to bring this intensity through this broad and very entertaining take on this arch villain type. Lee completely alters his style to match the very different style for Kim, and together they beautifully amplify the best qualities of this slightly absurdist western of the east.
Of course even as different as this performance is Lee once again employs sort of his time bomb of emotion though less restricted than in I Saw the Devil or A Bittersweet Life. Lee once again though is masterfully in crafting this core that defines the man that technically is always apparent in his performance yet it is not something he overtly emphasizes. In this film this quality relates to Chang-yi's path once he understands that fellow bandit Yoon Tae-goo (Song Kang-ho) aka the weird is in possession of the map he has been hired to find. Lee is incredible as per usual in delivering sort of the hidden intent within the character specifically in the moments whenever he sees Yoon. In these moments Lee instantly switches the style of intensity to be far more directed, and seemingly based in something almost more honest in terms of what motivates it. He eases off on the swagger instead reveals these conviction in his eyes, and a far palatable hatred when he tries to kill the man. This becomes one of the most interesting aspects of Lee's portrayal as he reveals within this hatred even a certain vulnerability. When others call Chang-yi it up Lee's reaction's so effectively once again alludes to a bit more to what makes him tick. Lee's terrific here though in actually portraying these moments in a way as the assassin at his most dangerous. When he is questioned by one of his men, there is this glint of a certain type of insanity in his eyes that almost has a certain desperation in it, before quickly murdering the man. It is a fascinating obsession that Lee creates showing that Yoon has done something to him, something that pesters the man. This naturally comes to a head when the titular trio meet in an expected Mexican standoff where Chang-yi reveals his yearn for vengeance stemming from Yoon's old days as a more notorious bandit who specialized in cutting off finger. Chang-yi being one of his unfortunate victims. Lee is great in this final scene in creating this duality in his death stare towards Yoon which is a combination of this almost witless hatred, and a certain joy as it seems he is about to obtain his revenge. As to be expected with Lee working with Kim, this is a great performance though this time in a wholly different tone. Lee gets everything he can out of this grandiose villain being such an enjoyable fiend throughout, yet still while finding a bit needed nuance where appropriate. Now this review should be over, but I would be remiss if I did not
mention the scene, which has no major barring on the rest of his performance, of Lee's portrayal of Chang-yi cracking up while watching a rom com. It's hilarious as Lee so earnestly depicts that moment showing that even a psychotic villain can just step back love a good film. That is all.