Kim Ki-Duk is by far one of my favorite directors in the realm of Asian cinema. His poignant works such as the Isle, Samaritan Girl and Bad Guy bring to light the wickedness of humanity set against common emotions. Using dialogue between main characters very sparingly, Kim utilizes setting and expressive actions to convey his motives in extremely hard hitting ways. To this day, the fish hook scene from the Isle is one of the most disturbing and profound expressions of love that I have ever witnessed. Fully aware of Kim's stylings, I was not prepared for the powerful story that was presented in the Coast Guard.
Similar to the Korean war success Tae-Guk-Gi, Kim presents the Coast Guard to show the hardships of war as suffered by both Korean citizens and soldiers alike. His introduction commentary to the film conveys the importance of the film reaching America, so western cultures can understand the turmoil that nationals suffer in a divided Korean country. Focusing on the important Coast Guard, a division of the South Korean military that protects its coastlines against spy invasion, the film follows the actions of one Private Kang (Jang). Kang trains diligently so that one day he will catch a spy and receive notoriety from the government for protecting his country's well being. Constantly mocked by civilians for their "no nonsense" attitudes, an early scuffle with locals foreshadows the obvious: Private Kang is going to put bullet holes in the wrong body. Sure as the sun shines bright, shortly after the altercation with the civilians, Kang finds himself pointing the barrel of his rifle at a foreign body in the restricted coastal area. Without warning, Kang fires upon the person. His desire to serve his country would change his life and the course of this film.
After Kang receives commendations and notable leave from his duty, a severe case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sets in. Kang cannot escape the events of that night where he took an innocent national's life, nor the physical and verbal abuse spewed forth by the local community. Private Kang had killed an innocent man and it would haunt him for the rest of his life. As we watch Kang suffer, Kim switches gears a bit and shows the ill effects of the murder on the deceased's girlfriend, who has since lost her mind. Hanging around the Coast Guard base, she sees her boyfriend in every soldier's eyes, and as a result invites them to indulge in the same pleasures she provided her then spouse. After taking more turns on the woman than a small child on a carnival ferris wheel, the platoon begins to see the lunatic as a nuisance. That is, until her brother discovers that she is pregnant with one of the soldier's baby. In true Kim Ki-Duk fashion, an impromptu abortion is performed by an army medic and the matter is laid to rest.
However, a new problem arises as the dismissed and now mentally disturbed Private Kang returns for duty in which he is not commissioned. Fully believing that the Coast Guard is his life and responsibility, Kang repeatedly tries to infiltrate the camp and resume his role as platoon senior. Unfortunately, the platoon captain has other ideas and Private Kang begins to resort to there means of rejoining the ranks.
Quite possibly Kim Ki-Duk's shining moment of glory, the Coast Guard is yet another example of superb film making to come out of Korea. Masterfully combining an emotional drama and horrifying war tale, Kim produces an excellent (American) follow-up release to Tae-Guk-Gi, furthering the notion that the Asian film scene is not yet dead.
Accompanying the supreme film, Tartan has loaded the disc with some necessary extras, including an introduction by, exclusive interview with and track commentary with Kim Ki-Duk. Definitely worth the price of the film, the explanation of the Coast Guard and introduction absolutely has to be viewed prior to the film itself! Also included is a music video for the film, phot gallery and trailers for Tartan releases. All of these extras shocked me and also brought about the question: Why aren't there this many extras on the Asia Extreme titles?
If you haven't gotten the idea yet, I'll state it plainly - Kim Ki-Duk's The Coast Guard is a must buy for fans of the Asian and War genres. Second to only Tae-Guk-Gi, this film will introduce the audience to a world of pain and insanity, but with a beautiful presentation that only Kim Ki-Duk can facilitate.