The Guard Post (GP 506, Kong Su-chang: 2008)

Sergeant Major Noh Seong-gyu has just one evening to investigate and uncover the story behind the bloody events events that have occurred at a Guard Post on the Demilitarised Zone – a job that he finds constantly hindered, not the least because the son of the Army Chief of Staff is supposed to be present at the post, making an already sensitive political situation even more troublesome…

Director Kong Su-chang follows up his flawed but acclaimed R-Point with The Guard Post – a potentially complex and multi-layered story which at initially appears to be an attempt to walk a line between thriller, horror and political drama. The film swings into action from the word go – it’s a bloody opening with some stark and impressive imagery.

Unfortunately things slow down from there on in, and it’s a slow, uneven pace that hinders the film for the next hour or so. Sadly The Guard Post is very quickly reduced to a who – or what – ‘dunnit’ as story behind the bloody aftermath is uncovered. Despite the politically charged set up, The Guard Post‘s politics are largely reduced to an investigation hampered by the military establishment. It’s kind of thin stuff and while it sorts itself out for the final half an hour – and it’s actually really good from that point on – the chances are that The Guard Post will have lost you way before then. It’s a good half an hour overlong and makes a strange use of its clunky flashbacks – which are supposedly in place to ‘untwist’ the investigation but which largely manage to confuse and frustrate rather than add any tension to the piece. It’s an editing style which the filmmakers apparently think is cleverer than it actually is – in fact it’s just downright daft to confuse your viewer to the point of not caring.

It’s clear pretty much straight away from this slightly convuluted story that Su-chang is essentially remaking R-Point in a more politically charged setting – albeit in a bloodier version – as he replaces Vietnam with the Korean demilitarised zone. Whether this makes a better film will divide viewers – I think it’s probably just a little better than his debut, mainly because he handles the final half an hour pretty deftly, although it’s still really too little too late.

The frustrations with The Guard Post are magnified when we find that a really good cast is under-utilised. Jeon Ho-jin is excellent as the pressured Sergent, although he ends up with less and less to do as the plot twists itself up with flashbacks. Lee Young-hoon, Lee Jeong-heon and Cho Hyun-jae are also pretty solid, although it’s not until the last half an hour of the film that they’re ever really able to ramp up the acting stakes.

The Guard Post feels like a bloated mess and really should be better than it is. A handful of strong performances and some nice cinematography are hampered by the long running time and occasional lulls in tension. Fans of bloodier horror will appreciate the visuals, however the snails pace sadly means that the tension is severely lacking. Of course, it remains to be seen whether director Kong Su-chang will remake the same type of story for a third time but manage to find a way to make it all gel together better.

GP 506 (The Guard Post)
Directed by Kong Su-chang
Produced by Kong Su-chang, Pil Yeong-u
Written by Kong Su-chang
Starring Jeon Ho-jin, Lee Young-hoon, Lee Jeong-heon, Cho Hyun-jae

The Guard Post Image © Showbox/Mediaplex Inc.