Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Personally, I can’t imagine an American filmmaker taking the assassination of John F. Kennedy, per se, and turning it into an over-the-top, bright, vivid, wacky ass black comedy.  Oh but those karazy Koreans.  A nation of folks who take more chances in cinema than any other people I know who have access to cameras, and that includes the French.  Admittedly though I haven’t run across any male erections in a Korean film as of yet (‘Secret Things’, ‘Baise Moi’ ‘Fat Girl’et. al.).  But I also have yet to see man defecate (The Isle) in a French movie either.

In 1979 Korean president / dictator Park Chung-Hee, a high ranking member of his cabinet and a few of his bodyguards were assassinated by Park’s good friend and KCIA director Kim Jae-Kyu.  With friends like these…  There seems to be some controversy in Korean lore as to how exactly this assassination came to take place.  Was it an expertly planned coup by a highly organized cell of democracy minded Korean freedom fighters, or was it a spur of the moment decision made by a man who was insulted once to often?  Director Sang-Soo Im’s political satire ‘The President’s Last Bang’ is firmly in the court of the latter, pretty much painting the entire Korean government of the late 1970’s as a bunch of hedonistic, misogynistic, thieving, oppressive sycophant isolationist, intent on running their country into the ground.

The film begins with KCIA Chief agent Ju (Suk-Kyu-Han) interrogating a mama-san of which one of her girls has awoken in a compromising position with President Park(Jae-Ho Song), who is portrayed quite unflatteringly as a lonely, dirty old man spending his spare time looting the country, procuring prostitutes and drinking with his

friends.  Chief Agent Ju is particularly down on his work as he is oft times physically beaten by his boss who is also the president’s chief body guard (Wong-Jung Jeong). Chief Agent Ju also hates his job because his duties pretty much consist of bringing hookers to the presidents palace, known as the Blue House, and then rousting said hookers so they won’t reveal that been trysting with the president.  Agent Ju confronts his boss, KCIA director Kim (Yun-Shik Baek) informing him that he plans to retire, but Director Kim has his own issues with the president and his bodyguards.  It seems that the presidents men feel the KCIA is far too lenient on protestors and perhaps an all out massacre will send the message to the insurgents that they aren’t f’n around.  Since Director Kim has already seen a doctor who’s informed him of his failing liver, and he also has a complete inability to drop a deuce, he’s pretty damn irritable.  So boom, one insult too many and it’s time to assassinate the president and all of his buddies.  To think that President Chung could, theoretically, still be alive oppressing folks today had Director Kim just been able to track down a bottle of Kaopectate.  

Kim haphazardly devises a plan, asks Chief Ju if he interested.  Kim replies ‘Shit, I have nothing better to do today’ and since Chief Ju had nothing better to do except assist in the assassination of a head of state, the course of Korean history is thusly, irrevocably changed.

I will freely admit that this was different kind of film.  Kyu shot the film in bright vibrant colors with a very 1960’s ‘Some Like it Hot’ style to it.  It seems obvious, at least to me, that the filmmaker have, or at least had, very little respect for the Korean government.  Maybe too little.  If these cats are as incompetent and corrupt as this film suggest, it’s miracle that there still is a Korea.  If one is at all familiar with the Japanese occupation of Korea and the atrocities that are alleged to have gone on there, then one is also aware many Koreans see the Japanese as the Jews see the Nazi’s.  So to further degrade the image of President Chung, he often chooses to speak Japanese over Korean in certain spots, which is damn near unforgivable.  Somebody involved with this film didn’t care President Chung in the least.

Which leads me my main dilemma with ‘The President’s Last Bang’, because I liked it as a movie, and really enjoyed the composition and story arc.  It was darkly comic, and I mean like nighttime with no moonlight around dark , as well as being quite profane and bloody.  Women are routinely referred to as ‘stupid bitches’ which on the whole the women see to accept.  But is this history or is it purely satire?  It was never made quite clear to viewer as far as I could tell.  They forced me to do a little research on the subject and the film does sell Chung short a bit as he did have some accomplishments in his 18 years of rule, in addition to being a corrupt, constitution rearranging despot.

‘The President’s last Bang’ is definitely one the most unique, brash, and controversial films I’ve ever seen.  And maybe even a bit irresponsible.  I say that now as finish my script for ‘November 22nd 1963 – The Musical!’  Oh those karazy Koreans.

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