October 10, 2005


Korean 'let's kill the president' movie THE PRESIDENT'S LAST BANGIn 1971, President Park Chun-Hee rescinded the Korean constitution and assumed the powers of a dictator. In 1979, Kim Jae-Gyu, his Chief of Intelligence, assassinated him during a dinner party at a Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) safehouse. THE PRESIDENT’S LAST BANG is a blow-by-blow account of the president’s last night, his brain getting blown out, and what happens before dawn as the pieces of the power puzzle are reassembled into a new government. It’s all a kinky, historical thrill ride with teeth.

Despite being the leaders of their nation, the president and his cabinet are more concerned with what’s in their pants than with what’s happening in their country, and they have all the prejudices, stubbornness, and blindness to the facts around them as any group of old dudes in power. By the time Kim Jae-Gyu blows away President Park you don’t know if he’s pulling the trigger because he believes in democracy, or because he’s been driven crazy by stress-related constipation. And that’s the sick genius of this movie: it makes the political personal. This isn’t a sanctimonious, animatronic Hall of Presidents but a orgasmatronic political whorehouse.

The camera slides and glides all over the shadowy set, insinuating itself into conversations and then slipping back into the murky darkness on little cat feet.

Baek Yoon-Shik (the kidnapped CEO from SAVE THE GREEN PLANET) turns in a phenomenal performance as Kim Jae-Gyu, the tormented, dying Chief of Intelligence. He’s not a very likeable guy to be the hero of a movie, and with his eyes constantly fixed on some kind of tortured Hell Dimension that only he can see, and his mouth continually spewing morbid non-sequitor transmissions from the bowels of his fevered brain, it’s hard to get a handle on him, but if he’s anything he’s deeply watchable, a change agent on crystal constantly throwing a wrench in the works.

The big acting surprise in the movie, though, is Han Suk-Gyu as a foul-mouthed, inherently decent, bubble-blowing bully boy bodyguard who doles out punishment in the basement and struggles to grab glory wherever it presents itself upstairs in the moonlight. Normally Han Suk-Gyu is a matinee idol, but here he comes across as a character actor, attacking his role in an incandescent blaze of profanity.

The only problem with this movie is an ending that lets the audience down. I suppose it’s what happened historically, but all this suffering and bloodshed for this?!? The movie takes such pains to present history as drama and not as a gallery exhibition that when history pokes its grizzled old nose into the finale and wraps everything up for us it’s bone jarring. But once you get over your initial revulsion for the change of gears you’ll walk out of the theater thinking that history pretty much sucks. Too bad we’re living in it.

October 10, 2005 at 10:34 AM in Reviews | Permalink


nice review! Still my favourite Korean film of the year.

Based on descriptions of the end, that black screen sort of ruins things, since the documentary footage was supposed to pack a final punch. Infant Park Geun-Hye (President Park's daughter, now a very influential politician) included.

Posted by: x | Oct 10, 2005 6:53:02 PM

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