Friday, April 17

Review: G.P. 506 (2008)

G.P. 506 aka The Guard Post
Directed by Kong Su-Chang (R-Point)
Starring Jeon Ho-Jin, Cho Hyun-Jae

Rating: 3.5

Fiercely gory military horror/pychological thriller set in a remote guard post along South Korea's demilitarized zone, which chronicles the spread of a mysterious virus that turns infected soldiers insanely violent . I want more zombies.

Turn to John Carpenter's remake of The Thing for high-pitched paranoia, the kind that eats your insides; a slow but sure consumption that is more torture than attack in a desolate, lonely terrain. G.P. 506 strives for this gnawing fear. And almost succeeds.

The guard posts along Korea's DMZ are brooding relics of the Cold War frozen in a dark past. Heavily armored, armed and self-contained, it is prison-like in its demeanor; some of even the bravest soldiers are told to have gone mad from the severe discipline it decrees. And this is what the film suggests in its disquieting opening. A group of soldiers break into Guard Post 506 and find its walls splattered with blood. The guard post is a maze of sharp corners and metal piping and it takes a few moments before they find its occupants strewn across the floor of a large sleeping quarter, limbs scattered, skulls cracked open. A man holding an axe stands in the middle of the room, drenched in blood and laughing.

Sergeant Major Noh Seong-Gyu (Jeon Ho-Jin) later arrives to investigate the deaths, he is given 10 hours or until 6 a.m. to gather evidence. Comparing the corpses with the number of soldiers stationed in the GP, he discovers that one more man is missing. After a thorough search which further heightens the dungeon-dark intricacy of the post, his team finds a soldier who identifies himself as 1st Lt. Yoo (Koreanovela star Cho Hyun-Jae), the son of the army chief and the head of GP 506.

Part detective-mystery, GP 506 reveals through chopped-up flashbacks several versions of what really took place. As Noh puts pieces of the puzzle together, new versions surface and can be confusing at times. This also dampens the momentum of the investigation, which just goes back and forth particular incidents in the past, some redundant to what has been already revealed. A tighter editing and a more focused storytelling could have propelled the movie to new, suspensful heights.

The nature of the virus is also unclear. It turned one into a zombie, another had a craving for raw flesh, while most have clusters of abscesses and become violently murderous. A nitpick really since Kong Su-Chang focused more on the growing paranoia that divided the ranks. As the present and the past collide, Noh's team begins to implode. Each one of them had the symptoms but the heirarchy was still in place; it was a matter of letting the virus run its grotesque course, allowing the senior officers decide who gets to live or killing each other of. There are great moments of desperate tenderness seen through an unflinching critical eye that weighs the inhuman discipline that the military demands from its soldiers while serving in the GPs.

Then, there is the gore, oh how it sings! Commitment or simply fascination, Kong's carnage is sticky. It's on the floor, on the shirt, on the walls, dripping and splattered. The texture is syrupy, the feral frenzy---that bit with a soldier progressively pounding his own hand with a metal pipe---dizzying. G.P. 506 may be inferior to Kong's previous movie, the army vampire horror R-Point, but it still imposingly commands. Looking away is the easy part. The unsettling sadness echoing in the guard posts may be more difficult to forget.


Andy Briones said...

Sounds interesting; is this South Korean? The only Korean film I've seen so far is Bin-jip (3-Iron). That film caught me by surprise. I didn't think I'd like it, but I did.

Thor Bee said...

3-Iron is a great film! Loved the "metaphysical ending."

Kim Ki-Duk is quite a controversial director, and though sometimes he misses, his films always spark a debate and are very involving. Also check out Samaria, The Isle and The Isle. Another great Korean director is Park Chan-Wook, he of the Vengeance trilogy.

Andy Briones said...

I think they screened The Isle previously in Cinemanila. Predictably, I wasn't able to watch, ehehe. My friend did, and she liked it very much. We have the same taste in film; I have a hunch I'll end up liking The Isle too.

Was able to get a copy of Wong Kar Wai's Dung che sai duk (Ashes of Time Redux). I think I won't procrastinate and watch this one next week, ehehe. Great cast! I love watching period Chinese films. Gorgeous costumes!

Thor Bee said...

So have you finished watching WKW's Ashes of Time Redux? Very dreamy, I love it.

The Isle is PAINFUL to watch but like most Kim Ki-Duk films, the premise is very intriguing. You've been warned. :)

Andy Briones said...

Haven't seen Ashes of Time yet; I might procrastinate, ehehe. I was able to get a copy of Clive Owen's old BMW flick. It's a series of short films helmed by John Woo, Guy Ritchie, Ang Lee, etc. Sounds cool!

The Camera Fanatic said...
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