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Hae Anseon

The Coast Guard

South Korea 2002
produced by
Lee Seung-jae for Korea Pictures
directed by Kim Ki-duk
starring Jang Dong-kun, Kim Jeong-hak, Park Ji-a, Yu Hye-jin, Jeong Jin, Kim Gu-taek, Kim Kang-woo, Park Yun-jae, Kim Tae-woo, Kin Yeong-jae, Kim Mi-seong
written by Kim Ki-duk

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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The border between North and South Korea, a coastal area, watched by a small platoon of the South Korean Coast Guard who have to see to it that no North Korean spies cross the border ... not that that yould happen all that often.

Kang Han-chul (Jang Dong-kun) is a very ambitious soldier who is hell-bent to shoot an agent in the restricted zone between the two countries ... and eventually, one night, he really spots a man right in front of his gun, and thinking it's a spy, he shoots. But unfortunately the man was not a spy but a (South Korean) civilian who has come to the area to shag his girlfriend Mee-young (Pqrk Ji-a) for soem extra thrills (even though he knew better - and when he was shot, he was still at it ...

This incident lowers the already low esteem the Coast Guard has with the locals, and matters are not helped by the fact that Kang Han-chul is honoured for what he did - in principle, he did the right thing, he just hit the wrong person - and rewarded with seven days leave.

However, knowing he has killed an innocent mandoesn't sit with Kang Han-chul lightly, and in fact he gets so worked up by the whole situation that he is first declared unfit for service with a weapon, later he is discharged, and his attempts to join up with the platoon again grow more and more bizarre ...

Meanwhile young Mee-young has gone crazy and has developed a streak of insane nymphomania, seducing soldiers from the Coast Guard by the number, always believing she's having sex with her dead boyfriend once more. Before long she gets pregnant, and when her brother comes to the Coast Guard demanding to know who slept with his sister, he is shocked to find out it was half the platoon.

Eventually the Captain of the Coast Guard - who's also among those who slept with Mee-young - demands the platoon's Doctor to perform an abortion ... which almost goes wrong, as the man is an army doctor and not a gynocologist ...

The mood in the Coast Guard is tense, and even gets tenser when Kang Han-chul one night manages to break in, steal a gun and later starts shooting at his former comrades. Quarrels even within the platoon break out, not at all helped of course by the guerilla style warfare Kang Han-chul wields against the platoon, and soon soldiers start dying. Finally, the platoon, and first and foremonst Kang Han-chul's former best friend Kim (Kim Jeong-hak), track down Kang Han-chul after one night's particularly bloody attack, but when they reach him, all they find is an empty uniform, and Mee-young laughing at them as a sort of insane angel of vengeance ...

Kang Han-chul has meanwhile moved to the next city, where he, in the middle of a much-frequented square starts singing an army song, in full uniform. Before oong a small crowd gathers - and when Kang Han-chul has finished his song, he takes his bayonet and stabs a passer-by ...

 

A very gritty film about the downsides of military life, avoiding all glamour in the style of trash like Top Gun and refusing its characters their catharsis - which doesn't mean the film is as depressing as this might sound, as Coast Guard is at the same time a tense thriller that almost playfully avoids becoming too brain-heavy (desptie its grave subtext) and remains entertaining (if not in an uplifting way) throughout.

Recommended.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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