A Hard Day Movie Review
Written by Angry Scholar
Released by Kino Lorber
Directed by Seong-hoon Kim
Written by Seong-hoon Kim and Hae-jun Lee
2014, 111 minutes, Not Rated
Theatrical release on July 17th, 2015
Seon-gyun Lee as Go Geon-soo
Man-shik Jeong as Det. Choi
Jin-woong Jo as Park Chang-min
Dong-Young Kim as Detective Do
Dong-mi Shin as Chief
Detective Go Geon-soo is on his way home from his mom’s funeral when he swerves to avoid running over a cute lil’ dog, only to plow into some dude. He stashes the corpse in his trunk and drives on, only to get stopped at a DUI checkpoint. Later he finds out that he and his buddies at the precinct have all been fingered for corruption. You might say he’s having [DRAMATIC PAUSE]... a hard day (see what I did there? SEE?!).
A Hard Day is about a pretty bad guy who finds himself in a series of increasingly improbable and darkly hilarious situations due partly to his own bad decisions and partly to the general atmosphere of corruption that pervades this cinematic version of the Korean police. It has elements in common with films by Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie—it’s a black comedy/crime film, so it would be surprising if it didn’t—but stands out for its clever use of tension. And boy is it tense. Virtually every scene slaps Go with some fresh challenge to overcome, such as how to dispose of the body of the guy he hit. His solution is pretty ingenious: he decides to hide the body in his own mother’s coffin. The scene where Go works his way back into the funeral home, pries open his mom’s coffin and smuggles the body in from outside the building is impossibly nail-biting (and his strategy for getting the body into the building is especially clever).
Everything I just described happens in the film’s first thirty minutes, which leaves nearly an hour and a half of movie. The body may have been disposed of, but when someone calls in the hit-and-run and eventually reveals they know Go is responsible, things really take off. Now he has to prevent his police pals from learning of his crime while figuring out what the blackmailer wants. The tension bar was set incredibly high in the funeral home sequence, but it doesn’t let up through the remainder of the film, with each new discovery getting Go deeper and deeper and every temporary victory ultimately revealing more clearly how perilous his situation is.
There’s nothing particularly new here: the pacing and cinematography are very reminiscent of any number of recent Western crime thrillers (it sort of put me in mind of In Bruges), and the web-of-police-corruption narrative isn’t entirely new either. But everything is so polished, so thoroughly thought out, so well-composed, and so damned clever that A Hard Day is really a joy to watch. It goes incredibly quickly, which is good in that it never fails to hold your interest, but bad because, you know, it’s over incredibly quickly. And the dark, seedy narrative is perfectly balanced against the tongue-in-cheek, cynical humor. It’s really good, you guys.
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