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A comic 'Bang' for your buck

November 25, 2005|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

Im Sangsoo's "The President's Last Bang" is an outrageous, savagely comical account of the disastrous circumstances surrounding the assassination of dictatorial South Korean President Park Chung Hee in 1979. Although a tad long-winded and plodding, it's vigorously acted and persuasive, leaving the viewer to suspect that Im's account, drawn from historical records, could be pretty close to the truth. For all its complications and large cast, the film is fairly easy to track and has exuberantly profane English subtitles.

In a world of the military and the government, inhabited by ambitious, ruthless middle-aged men exuding machismo, Kim (Baik Yoonshik), director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, is something of a sophisticate. Just as his doctor tells him his liver is damaged from having to serve as the sybaritic Park's drinking companion and that he is in dire need of rest, the president calls to demand that he arrange a party that evening at the elaborate and luxurious KCIA safe house. Kim enlists the help of his shrewd assistant Col. Min (Kim Eungsoo) and young, tough, gum-chewing Chief Agent Ju (Han Sukgyu), who is to line up both a call girl and a budding pop singer to which the president has taken a fancy. Also on hand will be the president's bullying, arrogant chief bodyguard, Cha (Jeong Wonjoong), a key Kim nemesis.

As the party gets increasingly rowdy, in another part of the vast safe house Kim confides to Ju and Min that he intends to gun down the corrupt president and the crude, power-hungry Cha. It's not hard for Kim to pull the trigger, but thereafter everything that could possibly go wrong does. Clearly, Kim, a man truly at the end of his tether, did not think about the aftermath -- most important, how he would prevent a military takeover of the government.

"The President's Last Bang" plays out as an absurdist slapstick tragicomedy, but South Korea would pay a heavy price for the assassination and its fallout until the first free parliamentary elections -- and the Olympic Games in Seoul -- were held in 1988.

*

`The President's Last Bang'

MPAA rating: Unrated

Times guidelines: Assassination bloodbath violence, considerable brutality, strong language, adult themes

A Kino International release. Writer-director Im Sangsoo. Producers Shim Jaemyung, Shin Chul. Cinematographer Kim Woohyung. Editor Lee Eunsoo. Music Kim Hongjip. Art director Lee Minbok. In Korean with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes.

Exclusively at the Fairfax Cinemas, 7907 Beverly Blvd. (at Fairfax Ave.), (323) 655-4010.

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