Cinema Signal:

The Assassination Business:
A History of State-Sponsored Murder

. "The President's Last Bang"

The president in question is Park Chung Hee of South Korea (Song Jaeho). It's 1979 and the director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), Kim (Baik Yoonshik) has decided, more out of some twisted machismo than because of Hee's reputed dictatorial methods, to assassinate his leader and force the country's redirection. Though the mysteries behind his act are so unexplained as to be incidental, the essentials of the event are based on historical fact.

While the president dines and tolerates the company of his chief bodyguard Cha (Jeong Wonjoong) (who happens, strangely, to be unarmed), he revels in the companionship of two pretty females, one of whom sings and plays guitar. While these festivities are going on, Kim organizes his men, under the leadership of his assistant Col. Min (Kim Eungsoo) and Chief Agent Ju (Han Sukgyu), a brash, young gum chewer. Min orders them to have their men ready to shoot everyone who supports the president as soon as they hear his gunfire signal.

The plot unfolds like a "gang-who-couldn't-shoot-straight" comedy satire even as Kim's plan is fully carried out. But, not having given much thought to the aftermath, or to his own agenda for survival, confusion is heaped upon confusion. Dead people are shot again; the remaining government officials quake in fear and disarray; a general panic and a military takeover are barely avoided.

It's a comedy skit rather than a re-creation of an event of major magnitude, but writer-director Im Sang Soo seems intent on depicting every human foible of the people involved in such high intrigues, clearly wanting to unveil the simplistic and error-prone nature of those who occupy high levels of government and those charged with providing protection. Official positions come off as just so much play-acting and very little expertise, political, military, or legal. In the end, the film develops an amusing -- if richly ironic and absurd -- entertainment out of dire circumstances and you have to conclude that Sang Soo carried off exactly what he planned: a "Big Deal on Madonna Street" look at Korean politics.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Bodies all over the place at Korean CIA headquarters.
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