A Hard Day
Directed by Kim Seong hoon, Kim Seong-hoon and Kim Seong-hun
Starring Lee Sun-Kyun, Jo Jin-woong, Shin Jung-Keun, Jeong Man-sik and Shin Dong-Mi
On the way to his mother’s funeral, a detective accidentally hits a person with his car. He takes the body with him and puts it into his mother’s coffin. The moment he feels relieved, he receives a call. This caller insists that he saw the detective’s hit-and-run, but instead of asking for money, he wants to know about the body’s whereabouts, leading to a do-or-die showdown of the witness and detective.
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★★★½ review by adamov10 on Letterboxd
Detective Go Geon-soo is having 'a hard day'
A fun rollercoaster fast paced action thriller from South Korea, directed by Seong-hoon Kim. A Hard Day balances the action, thriller and black comedy brilliantly. It features plenty of engaging twists and turns which will keeps you guessing or shouting at the screen. It doesn't feature one single dull moment in the whole of its running time. It's got the classic violent and brutally that a lot of the top Korean films have. One of the most entertaining films of 2014
I suppose it wont be to long before Hollywood will be remaking this one.
★★★★ review by MrJago on Letterboxd
It doesn't really re-invent the wheel but oh man does this get a lot of mileage out of that wheel, such an entertaining movie.
The pacing is excellent and so many situations just made me smile, I love thrillers like that.
Lee Sun-Kyun is a very likable protagonist, I just couldn't help but hoping everything would turn out right for him.
★★★★ review by Matt on Letterboxd
"You're a good son; a very good son."
Detective Go Geon-soo is having a hard day, naturally. His wife filed for divorce. He's running late for his mother's funeral and gets distracted, causing him to run over and kill a person further ahead. He hides the body. At a DUI checkpoint, he freaks out and tries to brawl with every officer there. While this is happening, but somewhere else, his coworkers are being investigated for workplace embezzlement. He forgot the chocolate cake he promised for his daughter. His department is assigned to find the killer...of the man he killed. On top of all this, the sole witness to the crime is harassing and threatening him.
Fun day, right?
The first act is a little bit of a slog. Some funny lines, but nothing terribly exciting or worthwhile. Second act is where the tension picks up and spurts of action become more frequent. Detective and witness confront each other and play cat-and-mouse. Third act is pretty insane. Wildly unbelievable, yes, but it makes for some excellent twists and action sequences.
All the extremely positive reviews made me expect to love this. I didn't quite do that. The villain could've been stronger. Yeah, he planned ahead every time, but he never came off as truly menacing. The plot could've been a bit less cliche, but that's more of a nitpick.
However, I can't knock that splendid third act and can definitely recommend this one just off the strength of that. Wonderful ending too.
(Possible slight overrating, switched between 3.5 and 4.)
★★★★ review by Jonathan White on Letterboxd
A Ketchup review for a film I completely Relished.
Damn, this film just reaffirms that the Koreans can do no wrong when it comes to this genre. While this particular type of actioner finds its genesis in American Noir with elements of the Western, Korea has embraced and elevated it, and consistently turns out high quality products, much like how the Japanese overtook the U.S. in the television market way back in the late 60’s and early ‘70’s. They figured out how to make TV’s better and more reliable. Even Korean films I don’t consider perfect, such as Lee Chang-dong’s Peppermint Candy ( that I just watched recently, and I LOVED his Oasis which perfectly fits this scenario ) are a damn sight better than much of the drivel that flows out of Hollywood.
I find it a fascinating and vexing question as to why one film works and another film doesn’t. I’m sure if there was an easy answer, then every film would be brilliant. If I look back at the Korean films I love, there seems to be one common theme, the morality play. While I’m sure that LB’ers much more knowledgeable than me will be able to chime in with contradictory evidence, my recollections that all the major Korean directors … Park, Bong, Kim Ki duk, Kim Jee Woon, etc. always put the morality play first and foremost. The bad guy always gets his cumuppins in the end. This alone doesn’t explain their success, it just frames it. Just exactly how they get their cumuppins is where they excel, and it’s their secret sauce.
Writer / Director Kim Seong-hun wasn’t on our radar. My wife ( who does all the picking and sourcing …. ( Thank you sweetie ) Spotted it on Mubi, I think, and saw that it had some good reviews, and it was one of our Action nights. Well, duh, in his sophomore effort, Kim establishes himself as a director on-par with the Korean greats. He brilliantly keeps us both rooting for the flawed protagonist, and also rooting for his downfall, and that’s some feat.
Highly recommended. I’m keeping my eye on this guy.
★★★★ review by Steve G on Letterboxd
I'm starting to reap the benefits of successfully gaining access to foreign versions of Mubi. And to think I didn't even know there was such a thing a week ago!
I wouldn't say A Hard Day was an instant addition to my watchlist when I spotted it on US Mubi a few days ago. I have had a bit of a mixed time with Korean crime thrillers over the last few years, which I guess is understandable to a certain degree as it's been a very active genre indeed since the turn of the decade. You're bound to run into some wrong 'uns along the way.
I think this one was a bit more within my wheelhouse though. More action-based and not nearly as ridiculously long as some of the country's crime output, it also adds liberal dashes of black comedy and doesn't go overboard with the violence to the point where you're wondering if the people involved are actually people at all.
When I noticed that this was a Seong-hun Kim film though, I wasn't as surprised to find this so blackly humorous. He was responsible for the really enjoyable survival / disaster film Tunnel, which I caught at the cinema last year. That was a film filled with unexpected comedy moments and this was no different.
What's impressive about both these films is that Kim's sense of timing is completely spot on. He knows when to add some comedy and he knows when to take things in a more serious direction. He doesn't try and make the two intersect, and it makes for a very level viewing experience and he manages to stay well away from muddying the tone of his films.
A Hard Day's first half-hour especially is amazing stuff. It might sound critical to comment that the one and a quarter hour afterwards doesn't really live up to its quality, but it's not meant to be. It's just that the opening 30 to 35 minutes or so are SO good that it's always going to be hard to top or match those. The opening scenes, which revolve mostly around Sun-kyun Lee plowing into a guy on his way to his mum's funeral, are steeped in a very precise procession of small revelations and potential pitfalls for Lee. They are good enough in themselves.
But then follows a remarkable scene set in a funeral home where he tries to hide the body of the guy he hit in the same casket as his mum. This is one of those scenes that I'd recommend you try and find on YouTube and just watch it by itself even if you have no intention of watching this whole film because it really has to be seen to be believed. It's simultaneously hilarious and absolutely gripping.
It settles down thereafter into something rather less bizarre but still extremely enjoyable. It still throws in the occasional funny moment (there's a scene that reminded me so much of Monty Python and their 16 ton weight sketches) but settles down into a cat-and-mouse thriller that is a recurring theme in Korean crime films. It's handled a bit more subtly than most though, despite climaxing with a typically bruising final brawl.
I wasn't all that sure about the happy ending but the constantly frantic and anxious lead performance from Lee and pinpoint direction by Kim leaves me really looking forward to seeing what we get next from these two.
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