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Kino on Video presents
The President's Last Bang (2005)

"Director Kim, are you going to shoot me again?"
- Park Chung-hee (Song Jae-ho)

Review By: Jeff Wilson  
Published: April 02, 2006

Stars: Han Suk-kyu, Baek Yun-shik, Jeong Won-jung, Song Jae-ho, Kim Eung-soo, Kwun Byung-gil
Director: Im Sang-soo

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for violence, nudity, gore, language, adult themes
Run Time: 01h:42m:35s
Release Date: April 04, 2006
UPC: 738329045227
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+B+B+ C

DVD Review

Assassination films, whatever the locale, rarely come across as blackly humorous as Im Sang-soo's The President's Last Bang. Im's film takes a cynical look at the death of South Korea's Park Chung-hee, who has ruled the country more or less as a dictator, spiralling, as the film shows us, into a culture of corruption and brutality. The man who put a stop to Park's reign was Kim Jaegyu, the head of South Korea's CIA. Here, Kim is a slightly off kilter patriot, driven by illness to make one last stab at saving his country. Along the way however, he finds the realization of his plans much more diffiult.

As the film begins, we get a glimpse of the debauched lifestyle of the president and his closest allies, as topless girls cavort around a swimming pool. KCIA Chief Agent Ju (Han Suk-kyu), all barely concealed contempt and gum-chewing agitation, hates what his career has come to, sent on such menial tasks as picking up the floozies for the latest presidential bash. When Kim (Baek Yun-shik) offers him the chance to join his plot, he reluctantly goes along with it. Joining them is Min (Kim Eung-soo), a KCIA colonel and strong military man. Kim, having received a poor report from his doctor regarding a liver ailment, finds himself pushed to limit by Park's decrepit lifestyle and engages his men to take action with him.

While the film isn't as wickedly funny as the quotes adorning the box would have you believe, it is indeed a blackly comic look at machinations and history, wherein we see that sometimes history's most important moments can come about as much through stupidity and incompetence as through heroism and bravery. Kim means well, but his chances at success are strictly limited by the clowns who populate his forces, men unsure of what they're supposed to do, much less possessing the wherewithal to actually do it. Even Ju, who at first appears the classic hardcase thug, wilts when asked to kill a schoolmate who guards the president.

Kim is the pivotal character, but he's hard to get a grip on; Baek does well as a man initially acting on his own, but quickly swept away by forces beyond his control. Han Suk-kyu's Ju is always watchable, and his actions at the end of the film, where he awaits capture while praying with his family, are chilling to watch. Im's camera uses movement well, specializing in tracking shots that glide through the action. He switches to effective handheld camera, too, conveying the frenetic nature of the uncertain yet harried plotters well. In the end, The President's Last Bang paints a vivid picture of a government barely competent to rule except by force, with a buffoonish act never too far away.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: A clean, crisp picture is on hand here, with rich color and fairly sharp detail. The picture is anamorphically enhanced and presented in its original 2.35:1 ratio. Small, white English subtitles are optional.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Koreanno

Audio Transfer Review: An effective Dolby 2.0 track does the job, with clear dialogue and a lot of gunfire.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Stills gallery
Extras Review: An interview with Im (08m:16s) is well worth watching, with Im much franker and funnier than most directors discussing their films. He covers a range of topics, from the censorship of the opening and closing sequences to working with his actors, to similarities between Park's regime and the current administration. The interview is in English and is 16:9 enhanced. Kino's U.S. trailer for the film is included, which conveys the tone of the film pretty well, and a selection of publicity stills featuring the main cast.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

A dark and sometimes very funny film, The President's Last Bang has little sympathy for the assassinated Korean President Park Chung-hee, painting him as a brutal, somewhat pathetic man who held on to power through repression and violence. His assassination sees a comedy of errors and foolish behavior on all sides, with good intentions buried by ambition and incompetence. For those looking for a Korean film unlike the usual fare coming from that country.


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