The Coast Guard


The Coast Guard

[original title: Hae anseon]

Cinematography by Baek Dong-Hyun

Edited by Kim Sun-Min

Art Direction by Yun Ju-Hun

Produced by Lee Seung-Jae & Kim Sang-Geun

Written & Directed by Kim Ki-Duk



Jang Dong-Gun

Kim Jeong-Hak

Park Ji-Ah

Yu Hae-Jin

Production Studio:

Theatrical: LJ Film

Video: Palisades Tartan


Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: BD-25

Feature Size: ca. 14.6 GB

Bit rate: moderate~low (15-20 Mbps)

Runtime: 95 minutes

Chapters: 11


Korean DTS-HD MA 5.1

Korean DTS 2.0 (commentary)

Subtitles: English & Spanish


  1. Director’s Introduction (3:50)

  2. Commentary with Kim Ki-Duk and Jang Dong-Gun

  3. Making-of featurette -in SD (36:50)

  4. Music Video (4:20)

  5. Photo Gallery

  6. Trailer in SD

  7. DVD of the feature film


Locking Blu-ray Case: BRD x 1

Street Date: January 17, 2012


About Palisades Tartan:

Palisades Tartan has emerged as one of the premier distributors of independent and arthouse cinema in North America and the UK and has been on the forefront of consumer trends. Straddling both continents, their film line- up boasts an impressive repertoire in the UK including the Ingmar Bergman library and Wong Kar Wai’s 2046 and IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. In North America, apart from many favorites such as Michael Winterbottom’s 9 SONGS and Carlos Reygadas’s SILENT LIGHT, the library is anchored by Park Chan-wook’s Cannes jury prize winner, OLDBOY, the film that famously introduced the Western World to the Asia Extreme brand.

Tartan Films was originally founded in 1984 in the UK and is credited with bringing Asian Extreme film to the West as well as some of the most compelling art house films of the last quarter century. In May 2008, Palisades Pictures acquired Tartan Films US library assets and two months later, acquired a majority of Tartan Films UK’s film library assets. The new company Palisades Tartan has operations both nationally and internationally.


The Movie: 5

Synopsis (Palisades Tartan:)

“A member of Coast Guard Platoon 23, Private Kang (Jang Dong-gun) monitors a high-infiltration stretch of beach lined with barbed-wire fencing. Driven by the belief that killing a spy is the highest honor, Kang waits eagerly for a chance to prove his worth as a soldier.

One night, Kang mistakes a promiscuous couple for a North Korean spy and shoots without hesitation. Despite receiving honors, Kang slowly begins to unravel under the grief of what he’s done. Losing his grip on reality, Kang tries to revert to the life he knew while tensions and paranoia escalate and further tragedy becomes unavoidable.”


I have long been a fan of Kim Ki Duk.  I’ve seen and own videos of most everything he’s done to this date.  The Coast Guard may be heartfelt but represents some of the laziest screenwriting I’ve seen in some time - from him anyhow.  Kim begins his story with two protagonists already screwed up before the film begins, before the “accidental” killing of a civilian.

Kim Ki Duk wants to show how a divided country takes its toll on its youth.  His message would have some merit if they were seen to be innocent at some level beforehand.  But by the time of his story, 2002, Korea has already been divided for over half a century.  None of the people in his movie have ever seen it otherwise.  They are already damaged.  The killing just intensifies what is already amiss. A great deal of blaming goes on his movie but no one takes any responsibility nor is there any caring.  Perhaps Kim feels that his countrymen are so wasted they can’t even do that.  If that’s the case his film does that idea no credit.


Pvt Kang (Jang Dong-Gun) is not just gung-ho he is entirely out of step with the mission as seen by his bunkmates.  He doesn’t just take the guarding of his country’s coast from enemy spies seriously, he can’t wait for an excuse to but a bullet in one of them.  For her part, Mi-yeong (Park Ji-Ah) represents all that has become a caricature of Korean irresponsibility: drunkenness.  In films and TV shows one has the impression that Koreans are the vilest drunks on the planet.  The level of their misbehavior when drunk is astonishing, but is outdone by a complete lack of willingness to take any responsibility for what happens.  Friends and family are simply co-conspirators in this regard.


Back to Kang: In what kind of army, I ask, do you put a man so obviously unfit for duty back on the line with a gun in his hand?  And after the shooting, no debriefing of any kind.  I just about lost it when I saw both the shooter and the girlfriend of the man he killed interrogated right next to each other with crowds of angry civilians screaming for blood - all on the beach these guys are suppossed to be guarding!!  I know this isn’t the U.S. but South Korea isn’t exactly backward.  But that’s not the worst of it.  Kim places a village right next to the outpost where everyone knows that to go past a certain point risks being shot.  Does anyone on the civilian side of the fence guard that point?  No.  Are their laws in place to sanction anyone who does?  No.  When someone get drunk and strays across the line in the middle of the night and gets shot, does anyone think to lay the smallest part of the blame with the civilian?  Not on your life.  Instead the soldier is attacked repeatedly and brutally.


In the movie the woman who goads the unlucky clod across the line to get shot all to hell never addresses her part in this.  At least Kim has the good sense to have her go mad.  I suppose that’s because she isn’t debriefed either and all her friends blame the soldier.  It’s a lose/lose situation.

It’s hard to drum up much sympathy for people who can’t learn the simplest of lessons.  As it happens this is a work of fiction and a highly contrived one at that.  People do get hurt when they play where they shouldn’t.  Kim’s heart is in the right place but his brain must have been on holiday when he thought this one up.


Image: 5/8

The feature movie is only a shade above 90 minutes, yet Tartan leaves plenty of unused acreage in their single-layered disc: a mere 15 GB of a BD25, in which extra features take up 6 GB, leaving 4 GB which could have been used for a higher bit rate.  All the same, that might not have helped much.  The picture looks excessively scrubbed, on top of which are layers of fake grain when it suits.  Close-up are sharp but without much texture.  Distant shots aren’t sharp at all.  Night scenes, which are plentiful, are fairly noiseless and high in contrast, perhaps partly as a result of turning up the black levels to reduce noise.  Some of the digital effects are shabby, such as the fake digital sweat drops flying about during a boxing match.  The already claustrophobically framed original 1.85:1 aspect ratio is cropped to a further 1.78:1.


Audio & Music: 5/6

There’s a great deal of grunting and screaming in this film, as befits the subject. This does tend to put a strain on the microphone inputs which permit a level of distortion Kim must have felt consistent with the pain of his characters.  Rifle fire passes for realistic, but to my surprise surrounds are not much employed.  The contrary music is nicely balanced.


Extras: 4

I should start with what I consider to be a serious mistake on the part of Tartan: Yellow subtitles.  Yes they are easier to read sometimes, but only because they stand out so excessively from the movie, which is exactly what I should think you wouldn’t want because it competes for our attention.  Once you read the subtitles your eye/brain can’t walk away from them and return to the movie as we can if they are white.  On the other hand the menu design is simplicity itself. Hats Off.


Kim Ki Duk, in his introduction and again in his commentary and again in the making-of featurette, makes his case for why he feels his movie - or, at least, his subject - is important.  I have long felt pity for Korea since it has been in a state of cold civil war for my entire lifetime. The toll on its citizens on both sides of the border must be incalculable.  A movie is the ideal format for bringing this into consciousness.  Alas, this is not that movie, no matter how often Kim asks us to accept that.

All of the bonus items are in standard definition and in various aspect ratios.  Except for the music video they are all subtitled with only occasional mistakes.  The commentary is also subtitled but cannot be accessed simultaneously with the subtitles for the feature film translation.


Recommendation: 4

Where to start; How about the cover art?  No, there are no ships, no explosions, no planes.  What was wrong with their choice for the 2005 DVD?  It was perfect.  Must not have sold enough copies.  The new one will likely bring in a few strays who will be properly pissed off, I’m sure.  I hope.

For all of Kim Ki-Duk’s reputation for dramas of extreme intensity and unbridled passion in his movies, The Coast Guard has to be one of his least compelling dramas.  The screenplay is simplistic; we know how it’s going to turn out from five minutes in, and it goes downhill from there.  The video, while not bad, is a little too worked over for my taste.  Can’t tell how much of this is Tartan’s doing, but it feels kind of creepy to me - and not in a good way, if that makes any sense.


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

January 16, 2012

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