Friday, April 14, 2006

[SIFF'06] The President's Last Bang

I've always enjoyed films which are based on historical/political events, even though they have a fictional element thrown in to spice things up. Films like Oliver Stone's controversial JFK, or Roger Donaldson's Thirteen Days (hmm.. both starred Kevin Costner), are always in my list as definite must watch. Not that they are accurate, but at least they provide some kind of ground work from which you can build your research upon (and therefore being able to verify its accuracy somewhat).

The first shot of this movie suggested a bang of a different kind. For a short while anyway, with its topless scenes. Anyway it was used to suggest the philandering, womanizing ways of ex-South Korean President Park Chun-hee, where agents of South Korea's CIA equivalent (KCIA) get the unglamorous job of seeking out starlets for the President's company.

The movie paints the dictator Park in an unfavourable light. with his corrupt ways and highlights the last day of his life, leading to his assassination by KCIA director Kim during a routine dinner. I liked the dinner scene, where the table of top government officials - President Park, his fat slob of an arrogant chief bodyguard Cha (who refuses to carry a weapon), scheming Chief Secretary Yang, all having opposing views with Kim. They drink and make merry, insulting foreign politicians like the Philippines' and the US' (heh, surely I'd like to listen in on what their opinions of other countries' political leaders are really like).

You can read Kim's frustrations with the regime, and takes it upon himself to do something before the night is up. Roping in a few good man, like Chief Agent Ju, and Agent Colonel Min, they plot to take severe action that will change the course of their history, whether or not they succeed. And that's where the tension and pace starts to pick up, with men making split-second decisions to make choices and follow their loyalties, and where the movie unfolds as a stylish, violent, and extremely bloody actioner set to cool beats of music.

There are a number of scenes which put a smile on my face, especially when you realize the similarities amongst various issues. Like when the top brass of the military comes driving into Army HQ in civvies and in a civilian car, the lowly guard at the guard house fail to recognize him and start to make things really difficult during identity verification (respecting the rank and not the person), and for all the "wayang" in camps, there is absolutely insufficient ammo (or none at all) to load weapons to stage a military arrest. And there are the clueless "chao keng" small fry agents who are caught up in the entire situation without knowing the big picture as well - isn't this quite typical?

Red tape and bureaucracy, and the incompetence of most MPs in deciding the next course of action, also goes to show how ill prepared the cabinet is when faced with emergencies of such nature. The reliance on one man, and the over-confidence that no matter of this nature could happen, helped to provide Kim and his men with buying of some time to decide on their own next steps. The sad part being while they know who they must kill, they too are ill-prepared as they have not crystallized plans for the aftermath.

The ending's pretty abrupt with narration giving you the lowdowns on what happened to the men involved in the assassination. However, the execution (pardon the pun) and delivery of the movie, makes this one heck of a suspensful, tightly paced movie, with some comedy sprinkled in to lighten up the gloom. Recommended stuff.

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