The President's Last Bang

Director: Im Sang-soo
Year: 2005
Production Company: MK Pictures
Running Time: 104 minutes

In 1961 Colonel Park Chung-hee led a coup to overthrow the civilian government in Korea and installed himself as the ruler for the next 18 years. Earlier in his career he had graduated from a Japanese military academy in Manchuria and had fought in their army against the Chinese. After the war he joined leftist elements that were fomenting rebellion, but after being caught he ratted out his colleagues and was allowed to stay in the military. After the coup, he was coerced by the U.S. government into re-introducing democracy and was elected in 1963. During his years in power Korea began its dynamic economic growth as a major exporter of goods – but he also clamped down heavily on personal freedom with brutal methods that led to a growing protest movement among the youth. In 1979 he was shockingly assassinated by his own director, Kim Jaegyu, of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency. This film is about that assassination.

The director received a fair amount of flack for his portrayal of Park – not so much for recounting his repressive tendencies but rather for his sexual proclivities, his fondness for all things Japanese (when he established relations with Japan in the 1960’s it led to rioting in the streets), his opaque dullness and his questionable intellect. Mind you, this is not a political thriller – instead it more closely resembles a dark slapstick comedy that chortles constantly at the characters. Everyone in the film is basically portrayed as a nitwit and it’s as if The Three Stooges were behind the assassination. At one point during the assassination the gun jams and the killer has to run around trying to find another gun to finish the job.
The reasons for the Director of KCIA (Baek Yoon-shik – the CEO in “Save the Green Planet”) to kill the President (Song Jae-ho) is never coherently addressed – he simply can’t seem to stand the fellow for his sexual activities, his height and his annoying personality – and so decides to shoot him at a small dinner party with the help of two of his men (Han Suk-kyu being one of them in a marvelously muddle-headed turn). But they haven’t really thought it out at all and have no plan for the aftermath as they just hope things will fall happily in place for them. They don’t. I have no idea how accurate or realistic any of these portrayals are – could idiots like this run a government (well clearly so with Bush and company) – but either way this film makes for a fairly amusing and at times outrageous outing that unfortunately rather fizzles towards the end – but then so did their plot.

Rating: 7.5


Reviewed: 01/06

Previous films from Director:

A Good Lawyer’s Wife (2003)
Tears (2000)
Girl’s Night Out (1998)