Watching Im Sang-soo‘s "The President’s Last Bang," you get the sense that it’d be a truly biting and edgy satire if you had the context to know what was going on. We don’t, so the suspected impact of this controversial and funny take on the 1979 assassination of South Korean president/dictator General Park Chung-hee by the head of his secret service, Director Kim, is mostly lost on us. Nevertheless, Im’s ultrablack comedy, with its bleak view of government and of human nature, is a somewhat fun if disheartening thing to watch.
Baek Yun-shik (also of "Save the Green Planet!") plays Kim, a depressed government fixture who’s had to watch his department, the KCIA, become reduced to arranging trysts for the president with college girls and minor starlets in safe houses â€” worse, Kim’s had to be a drinking buddy for the president, leaving his liver a wreck, and on top of that, the president’s bodyguard treats him disrespectfully. Together with agents Ju (Han Suk-kyu) and Colonel Min (Kim Eung-soo), he comes up with a semi-plan born half out of idealism ("For the sake of democracy, we’re offering our lives," he trumpets) and half out of self-disgust.
Im draws his deadpan humor from the general human inertia and untidiness of this attempted revolution. Kim shoots the president, but he doesn’t die, and Kim has to run out and get another gun from one of his underlings. Ju is left with no idea about what to do with the two girls who’d been brought in to entertain the officials. Incompetence and confusion abounds, and no one is sure what comes next, particularly when what they thought would magically trigger momentous change just…doesn’t.
"The President’s Last Bang" will be released this fall by Kino International.