An interesting mix of political conspiracy, brutality, sycop
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 05/24/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For those who enjoy political conspiracies, especially when laced with matter-of-fact coolness, blood pooling on the floors and enough confusion to make things believable, The President's Last Bang (Geuddae Geusaramdeul) is a fine, odd movie. Nearly all of the film is the story, more-or-less factual, of the last hours of the repressively authoritarian and corrupt Korean President Park Chun-hee, and then the maneuvering that followed.
President Park, who seized power in a military coup in 1961, decides to have another of his increasingly frequent private dining evenings with one or two young girls, attended usually by his brutal and sycophantic chief bodyguard, his toadying chief secretary and his watchful head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, Kim Jae-Kyu. Fine food is prepared, liquor is poured generously, and the girls entertain and prepare themselves for private entertainment later with the president. We realize the KCIA Director Kim is slowly losing favor. The president makes suggestions to him with a smile or a frown. Kim's compatriots take their cue from the president and make slighting references to the work of the KCIA. Repression is the order of the day, and the KCIA, no pussycat organization as it is, is seen by President Park and his sycophants as not being repressive enough. At the same time Director Kim is losing patience with the president's preoccupation with pleasure. "Never make a big deal about what goes on below the belly button," one high-ranking official advises. The date is October 26, 1979.
In the middle of this tipsy, unpleasant party, Director Kim excuses himself for a moment. He tells two trusted subordinates that tonight is the night. This is something they've thought about. Then he takes a revolver in his hand, returns to the party and puts a bullet into the chief bodyguard, then into the President. The lights go out and as Kim's men hear the gunfire, they shoot down most of the remaining bodyguards. Since his gun jammed, Kim takes another gun, returns to the party room, pulls up the president who is still alive and puts a second bullet into the man's head. Then he casually finishes off the groaning chief bodyguard. As his men restore order, Kim tries to gain the Army's support. It doesn't work. The last part of the movie tells us all about how disorderly the highest reaches of government were during the dark, early morning hours after the assassination. Then we learn about the fates of Director Kim and his men.
All this is presented with such "I am a camera" directness that the mundane self-interest, the careful protocols of power, the casual corruption and pervasive cynicism of government at these high levels almost turns the movie into a black comedy. For those who believe their sausages are made under the most hygienic conditions and who trustingly never read the list of animal parts that make up the meat, this movie might seem just as foreign as the country it comes from. Unfortunately, no government has captured the market on incompetence, venality, self-interest and rear-end kissing. At first we begin to sympathize with Kim, and then we have to keep remembering the KCIA was just as full of thugs as every other group. Humiliation and beatings were, and may still be, the common currency to maintain discipline and authority. Kim gradually seems motivated more by resentment and irritation than any particular feelings about democracy. How on earth did some of these people achieve power...and then we realize the same question can be asked about all governments.
The movie may be something of an oddity, but it's an engrossing one. The DVD features a fine color transfer."
Great film about Korea's intriguing Political assasination
P. GUPTA | Anchorage, KY United States | 07/24/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Quite an interesting film about assasination of the Korea's military ruler from 60's and 70's, the assasin being the head of Korean CIA. This film demonstrates a simple plan of execution of the assasination, with chain of command, respect for each-other and love for the country being the sole players of the "nearly successful" plan. Surely watch out to see what goes wrong..."
A great fact based political thriller
Jared M | New Zealand | 05/19/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In South Korea, 26 October 1979 is a significant date in history, for it was on this day that President Park Chung-hee was assassinated by Kim Jae-kyu, the Director of the Korean CIA (KCIA). President Park, while much admired for his work in moving South Korea from the ashes of the Korean War into one of the world's largest exporting countries, was becoming increasingly irrational and autocratic as he did his best to maintain his hold on power, which was initially achieved through his leadership of a military coup in 1961. By 1979, there was increasingly strong pressure for a return to democracy. However, despite the assassination, little changed and the military retained power for several more years.
"The President's Last Bang" is an account of the events immediately preceding and the subsequent powerplay scrambling for the leadership following the assassination. Although some portions of the film are fictionalised, much of it is factually based. Much of the film is from the KCIA perspective; obviously the KCIA Director himself (played by Baek Yoon-sik), but also of KCIA chief agent Ju, well played by Han Suk-kyu (Shiri, Tell Me Something). Somewhat unconventionally, the climax of the film occurs approximately midway through, with the initial part of the film setting the stage well for establishing motive for the KCIA Director. The remainder of the film deals with the scrambling by the KCIA to put their side of the events to the generals in an attempt to establish their role in a post-Park government. Despite the cinematic highlight being the immediate setup for, and the assassination itself, the latter part of the film maintains interest for the viewer as the KCIA agents gradually realise events had spun out of their control.
Upon release, "The President's Last Bang" created quite a stir in Korean society, due to the unfavourable depiction of President Park. Despite running South Korea as a virtual dictatorship for 18 years, many Koreans, particularly those of the older generation still look upon Park's nation building through his economic policies of the late 60s and 70s with some pride. After all, this is largely why South Korea is the powerhouse it is today. However, the portrayal of President Park as a Japanese song-loving party goer did not go down well with many viewers - being indicative of a too close alignment with the former colonists of Korea. Legal action forced the director to remove some footage, mainly period documentary footage, from the film upon release, but the film has since been shown with the previously excised footage in place.
Nicely shot and acted, "The President's Last Bang" is a great watch - especially if, like me, you are interested in Korean history."