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Written by Funn Lim

"It was scary to see him (Jang Dong Gun) in this role and even scarier that he played this role so well. Definitely one of the best performance I have seen from him, though I've seen only a few thus far."

SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!


Title Deciphered
In Korean, Hae anseon.

Released In
2002

Language
Korean and the version I watched is Malay subtitles with also Cantonese dubbed version. I am sure you can find the English subtitled version at yesasia.com.

Directed by
Kim Ki-duk

Cast
Taken from imdb.com

Jang Dong-Gun - Kang Sang-byeong
Kim Jeong-hak - Kim Sang-byeong
Park Ji-a - Mi-yeong
Yu Hye-jin - Cheol-gu

Summary
Taken from the VCD cover.

One night at the military patrol zone, a drunken couple Mi Young and Young kil are making love and Private Kang sports them. He becomes riddled with fear and shoots his automatic rifle in no time, and the man gets shredded into pieces by bullets and grenades. Heedless of Private Kang's trauma, he's got awardeda period of leave for catching a spy. After returning to the unit, Kang's behaviour becomes more and more violent, and later becomes discharged by reason of mental disability. But Kang's stay away from the unit. meanwhile, having witnessed the gruesome death of her lover, Mi Young goes mad and mistakes any man around the base to be her lover. The soldiers take advantage of her one by one and her trauma worsens. The beautiful coastline becomes a living nightmare for everyone as Private Kang and Mi Young wreck havoc around the shores.

I know, the storyline even as I read it is absurd.

A better one which is not quite accurate from Movies.Yahoo.Com.

Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk (SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER...AND SPRING) dramatizes the schism between North and South Korea in THE COAST GUARD (HAE ANSEON). Private Kang (Jang Dong-kun) is a South Korean soldier fanatically dedicated to his country and his duty, patrolling the shores at night to prevent North Korean spies from entering the country. But one night while on patrol, he mistakes a civilian couple for enemies and kills the man. From that moment forward, his fate seems linked to that of the woman, as both slowly lose their minds from guilt and paranoia. THE COAST GUARD is Kim Ki-Duk's powerful condemnation of the militarism that has gripped the two countries.



Comments
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this movie (VCD format) on sale at Speedy Video, so naturally I bought it. It wasn't really because of a half naked Jang Dong Gun covered in mud on the cover that enticed me, it was rather that man himself, period. I have read about this movie directed by a very controversial director, Kim Ki-duk at yesasia.com as I was looking for All About Eve, and from the description of the movie, I thought I might like to watch it, apart from another more well received movie, Chingu (Friends) which I can't find.

To say I was disappointed is not true. But this movie has got to be one of the weirdest movie I have ever watched, 2nd only I guess to Being John Malkovich. But Being John Malkovich was quirky type of weird, whilst this movie was simply "what was that?" weird.

The entire movie has the hallmark of an artsy type of movie, which basically means the camera work is in the simplest form, the film grainy, the entire filming looks rather cheap and really there is only ONE colour tone for this movie, and it all points to the colour tone that will make you feel very depressed watching this movie, very gloomy. And like all artsy independant lowly budgeted movie, there are few actors, and precisely one actress worth mentioning and the entire story does not make sense, though it tries to make sense by making it like as if a social commentary or maybe a showcase of isolation, political unrest, whatever. Of course like in all artsy lowly budgeted movie, sex is one of the themes but no, you don't get to see Jang Dong Gun in action, thankfully. His role is basically from a bit manic to at last totally insane caused mainly by his accidental shooting and bombing of one innocent civilian.

I guess at this point I must give a brief breakdown of the plot, because my review will the make more sense.

Jang is a coast guard guarding the coastline and anyone who enters the coast guarded by the coast guards after a certain hour at night will be treated as spies and will be shot, without question. Once a spy is captured or shot to death, that particular guard will be given honorary discharge, but the local residents dislike them, since in this modern times, they wonder where are the spies?

Jang is a senior coast guard who is on the verge of a mental breakdown. The entire movie looks like a very isolated type of existence, the coast guard doing their own thing wondering are there spies and the civilians having little respect for them. It so happens that Jang is the only guard who takes his position seriously, so serious that he paints his face like in some war zone type of camoflourge, much to the ridicules of his colleagues. We see them train everyday, and I wonder why must they run on the mud, roll in the sea, stick their head in the muddy waters? And when the superiors came to visit due to some huge mistakes made by the commander in charge, the superior will literally kick, clap, pushed the commander, like someone older bullying someone younger. The rate at which the guns can be snatched away from one guard to the other was really very juvenile and very careless. In fact the guards in here all seems pretty useless and worst still, careless. But that isn't really the main point I guess.

Anyway one night Jang was on duty when he saw a moving figure on the beach. That moving figure was a drunken man having sex with his drunken girlfriend and without much thought or confirmation, Jang first shot that man many many times whilst he was still on top of the girl, causing the girl severe shock and as that man crawled away, Jang used a grenade and basically blew him to pieces. That of course caused the girl to go bonkers immediately as she held his severed bloody hands to her blood stricken face. I will call that overkill and it was almost funny, but yet it was disgustingly and grotesquely funny. That scene was meant to shock, and since we get to see his severed head amongst other body parts, I was shocked at the level of overkill.

Instead of receiving psychological help, Jang was given I think a week's leave or something and he went home a bit disturbed as he was filled with regret over what he did and his girlfriend basically was so in fear of him, she left him. He doesn't seem to have a family though. He became destructive and went back to work but caused much mayhem with his over the top behaviour. So he was honourably discharged for good but yet he couldn't leave his old job behind and went back to cause more disturbances, and at last in a guerila style war fare, he killed several of his colleagues. By then he was completely and utterly nuts. But since it was filmed like in a dreamy sequence, I did wonder did he shoot the guys? And since he is the only one capable of doing that, I will say yes.

Meanwhile, the girl who was already so in shock she became rather sexually active. I don't see why it must be so but I take it as it is. She mistook all the guards as her dead boyfriend and she was of course abused in a way as I think 6 or 7 of them slept with her. Her over protective brother soon saw that she was pregnant and demanded an explanation from the guards as he knew they did it and instead of taking his beloved sister to the hospital for abortion or seeking psychological help, he allowed the guard's doctor to perform abortion on her, without any anesthetic. She was of course even more crazy than before, as she sat in the fish tank now filled with her blood staring out into space and eating the fish alive. There must be a metaphor somewhere in here. Her brother was so distressed he plunge a knife into one of the guards and got himself arrested.

One night the girl tempted Jang (whom she hated but yet doesn't seem to remember him and yet has this devious smile everytime she sees him so really I too am confused here) into the restricted zone and he got shot of course. To cut the long story short, his good friend was blown into pieces, his head missing, the girl laughed herself silly and walked into the sea and I assume she drowned, the whole coast guards turned topsy turvy and our hero, Jang turned up on a busy street singing, and people thought it was cute until one was knifed with the knife attached to the gun and he proceeded to exericise like he did at the start of the movie, oblivious to the screaming public or the dying man on the road. That was the final scene.

I do get what the movie was trying very tediously to say, but I just don't like it that it was said the way it was said. Jang was crazy from start till the end, only the degree differs. The girl offers no substantial weight to the plot except to look and act crazy and used as a sex slave basically by the men. Is this the hallmark of isolation, abuse, greed, fear, etc? I don't know.

All I know is I just don't get the story and at the end of the day I don't think the director even know what he wanted to say. I can only say the movie started with a very political undertone which was interesting and it descended into total madness that doesn't make sense. Maybe that was the purpose of this movie.

From order to mayhem when the men professed to uphold order did not do so.

So the plot is rather silly. The way it was filmed is rather silly. Everybody's performance was ok, as like in artsy film, most of the acting is weirdly pretentious and not memorable except for a few. In fact the performances are watcheable, although the actress was particularly painful to watch since her role is really one dimensional. I was also shocked by the level of violence of this movie, though the sexual content is not shocking since it was cut from the movie. After all this was an original VCD.

Only 2 things stood out for this movie.

The music for one, especially the one sung by Jang's character at the end of the movie. It was a very sad song, and marvelously sung by Jang.

The 2nd best thing about this movie, and in my opinion the best really is Jang Dong Gun's performance. Think All About Eve and you can't be farther than that! This character is like the total opposite, it is not about gentlemanly behaviour or love. It is basically a man slowly going bonkers, that's all. I think he played this role very very well, and I was very shocked by the ugliness of his appearance, the crazy eyes and his very manic performance. He captured the essence of the character well and his voice is different from what I could remember from Taegukgi. In fact it was less deep toned and less melodious. I thought his performance at the end of Taegukgi was really manic to the point of animal grunts and all, this character is even more manic, minus the animal grunts. It was scary to see him in this role and even scarier that he played this role so well. Definitely one of the best performance I have seen from him, though I've seen only a few thus far.

So really, if there's any reason to watch this movie at all, make it Jang Dong Gun. But don't watch it thinking this is like Taekguki or Lost Memories or All About Eve or Models. I have a feeling this might be closer to Chingu, maybe less violent but more manic.

I must add though I admire Jang's choice in his roles. So far I have seen 3 movies and ALL 3 have political undertones to it, making the subject often controversial and sensitive. And the movie I have yet to watch, Chingu seems to thrive on the subject of brotherhood, death and violence (in one of the worst giveaway of the plot, one of the instrumental music in the soundtract wrote "the death of so and so (put Jang's character in here)" so we know his character dies. What a spoiler!). In fact, Jang Dong Gun seems more attracted to storyline with heavy drama and very serious and often controversial subjects. He even makes the effort to learn the language, just enough to play his role convincingly and it just makes me feel in awe of the fact that this man is very dedicated to his art, sometime he seems overzealous in perfecting his art to the detriment of everything else, health for one. I also find his choices interesting although not all final products are great. But I still like him the best in All About Eve and that is only because of image and performance and the whole package deal. As for his movie, thus far Taekgugi is my favourite, until and unless I watch something else. This man is fast becoming one of my most favourite actors and it helps that he can really act, apart from having the looks and the height. Yes, yes, yes, I bought this VCD because of him.

Verdict
One of the worst movie of the artsy independent kind I have ever watched which ironically has one of the best performance I have ever seen, by any actor and in this case by Jang Don Gun. I am in conflict whether to like this movie or to dislike it but I am not in conflict when I say give this movie a miss unless you're really the biggest fan of Jang Dong Gun and appreciates great acting amongst really bad plot.


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