Click here to return to the main site.

DVD Review

DVD cover

The President's Last Bang


Starring: Jae-ho Song and Yun-shik Baek
Third Window Films
RRP: £14.99
Certificate: 15
Available 23 February 2009

KCIA director Kim is drowning in decay and decadence from within and without. For eighteen years Park Chung-hee has been president of South Korea, a reign which has fallen into decadence and violence. No longer able to live with the regime Kim makes a hasty and fateful decision to kill the President...

The President's Last Bang (Geuddae Geusaramdeul, 2005 - 1 hr, 42 min, 20 sec) is a very black comedy, centred around the real events of Korea’s President Park Chung-hee’s assassination, from writer and director Sang-soo Im.

For a non-Korean audience the film may be a little problematic, it was certainly so for the director, who was taken to court by Chung-hee’s children who objected to documentary footage which contained their actual image. They won the court case and until a recent court decision audiences were unable to see the complete film.

This DVD release is the first time an audience has been able to see the film as the director intended. It is difficult to attest to the film's historical veracity, I am certainly no student of this. If the film is to be believed Chung-hee had arranged the power structure in his country so that it most resembled a Mafia family. Corruption was rife and Chung-hee spent his time drinking and carousing with girls. His supporters would say that he was a devout Buddhist who guided his country from a rural economy into a successful, modern, state. As the Vorlons in Babylon 5 would say: "Truth is a three edged sword", and the truth about Chung-hee is most probably to be found in the middle of these two extremes.

Even without knowledge of Korean history, it is pretty obvious that the director has an axe to grind as he devotes the first half of the film justifying his negative view of the regime. It takes until midway into the film to kill the President. You have to ask 'why?' Not only does it make the first half drag a little, but if you were Korean then I’m sure you already have a position on this question that no amount of film time is going to change - unless the director meant it as one long insult, which would garner the film infamy and audiences. For a western audience you're best to think of it as a Mafia film and forget the politics.

As soon as the President has been killed the film takes a sharp turn away from political character assassination into black comedy. As the consequences of Kim’s act start to unravel, he soon finds that whilst killing a president may be reasonably easy, what you really need it a well thought out plan.

Yun-shik Baek, as the acerbic Kim, is perfect for the role as his portrayal remains ambivalent. Even at the end of the film you’re not sure whether Kim is cut from the same cloth as Brutus when he killed the President; certainly there is some dubious moral indignation and some inklings of some high ideal of democracy but there is also more than a hint that his marbles were scattered on the ground.

The thing which lets the film down the most is the picture quality, which makes it look like it was filmed on a camcorder, with visible striation on moving object. This may just have been the review copy or a bad encode, as you get the feeling that the original was shot on film stock. This is not restricted to the film itself as the extras have an interview (22 min, 20 sec) with the director which is practically inaudible. In the discs defence this is acknowledged, but they felt it too important not to include. The disc also includes the original theatrical trailer as well as trailers for eleven other films. Audio is either 5.1 or stereo Korean/Japanese with subtitles.

There was much that I liked about the film, but felt that the lead up to the killing (49 min) was too long for someone who knew little about the events. Once the President is dead, and the film becomes a black comedy, its enjoyment quotient increases. It’s just a shame the picture quality detracts from the overall impression.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£8.98 (
£8.99 (
£8.99 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.