Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Hard Day: Moderately Corrupt and Terribly Unlucky

By the standards of the Seoul police force, Det. Go Gun-soo is only moderately corrupt—a few minor payoffs here and there, no big deal. He is also a reasonably decent father, so we can root for him with a clear conscience while also enjoying every one-darned-thing-after-another that falls on his thoroughly compromised head in Kim Seong-hun’s A Hard Day (trailer here), which opens Friday in New York.

This day has already been one Go would prefer to forget. He has just been served divorce papers from his soon-to-be ex-wife while preparing for his mother’s funeral. It is an especially inconvenient time for the service, considering Internal Affairs is breathing down his neck. In his rush to cover up some incriminating evidence, Go apparently runs over some mysterious derelict with his car. He feels real bad about it, but what’s done is done. To save his neck (or so he thinks), Go manages to stash the body in his mother’s casket just before the burial.

Of course, Go soon figures out that was no vagrant, that was a prime suspect, who was somehow in league with the crooked Lt. Park Chang-min. Park is not simply a little bent like Go. He is a full blown gangster and he makes it his business to torment Go.

Kim visits more trouble upon poor, meatheaded Go than Job himself endured, but his wickedly black humor makes it all sadistically fun to watch. Somehow he keeps topping himself with clever plot twists and super-charged fight scenes. It is slick, tense, and loaded with cynical attitude. Yet, it is the “gee-whiz-now-what?” face of Lee Sun-kyun (better known for Hong Sang-soo dramedies) that really sells the bedlam.

This is definitely a testosterone driven film, featuring a hardnosed ensemble that really looks like a shady police precinct, especially Jeong Man-sik and Shin Jung-kuen as Go’s exasperated colleague and his world weary squad chief, respectively. Cho Jin-woong is also just flamboyantly evil enough as Lt. Park, without ever going excessively over the top.

It is just impressive to see A Hard Day careen about at such a deliriously breakneck speed. The energy and the humor never flag, while it ends on a rather ironic but wholly satisfying note. For fans of action movies and police corruption thrillers, A Hard Day is indeed the real deal. Highly recommended, it opens this Friday (7/17) in New York, at the Village East.