[Herald Review] Thriller ‘A Hard Day’ chronicles crime with poignant humor

By Korea Herald
  • Published : May 28, 2014 - 20:34
  • Updated : May 29, 2014 - 16:22
What does a typical hard day look like?

If this question were asked of Ko Gun-su, the corrupt detective played by Lee Sun-kyun in the upcoming local film “A Hard Day,” he would probably rattle off a litany of perplexing incidents.

He receives a divorce notice from his wife. His mother passes away. He and his coworkers are investigated by police inspectors over alleged embezzlement. He drives recklessly and causes a hit-and-run accident, killing a man. He tries to conceal the accident by hiding the corpse in his deceased mother’s coffin, but someone has been watching him all along.

All these incidents unfold one after another in less than 24 hours.

The action-thriller “A Hard Day” is the second film directed by Kim Seong-hoon, who was invited to this year’s Cannes Film Festival to premiere the flick as part of the Director’s Fortnight program. 
Lee Sun-kyun plays a corrupt detective in the movie “A Hard Day.” ( Showbox)

The movie received accolades from critics and audiences alike. According to the U.S. film magazine Hollywood Reporter, the “slick, dynamic, twist-heavy police thriller combines supercharged suspense with flashes of dark humor.”

Suspense runs from the beginning to the end. Gun-su disposes of the corpse by hiding it in his mother’s coffin, but spectators may suspect that he is in for a new development. His hard day enters a new phase when he gets a mysterious call from a person who claims to know of his crime.

Park Chang-min (Cho Jin-woong) witnesses every detail of the crime and threatens Gun-su to bring the corpse to him to attain his undisclosed goal. As Gun-su tries to get out of trouble, his actions only push him deeper into the hole he’s dug for himself. He almost loses his only daughter.

As suggested by the Korean title, which literally means “Take it to the End,” Gun-su is determined to do anything to end the mess, but the more he tries, the more troubles he gets into.

Director Kim successfully played out a tug-of-war between humor and suspense throughout the movie. Concealing a body is gruesome, so Gun-su uses a remote-controlled toy soldier to move the corpse through an air vent tube, making the audience hold its breath. But the toy makes noisy gunshots every 10 seconds, evoking laughter at the same time. When Gun-su encounters Chang-min, the venue is a men’s room where they get into a protracted fight, with Chang-min forcing Gun-su’s head into a toilet bowl.

Lee Sun-kyun makes a series of foolhardy decisions yet still earns the audience’s sympathy. His mix of down-to-earth actions and effortless demeanor triggers laughter.

Summer normally brings action films and thrillers to the top ranks on the local box office charts. With “X-Men” already a wide-screen success, and thus a good barometer for the season, many more action movies are expected to come out this summer.

“A Hard Day” will likely come to be considered a matchless example of the Korean-style cop thriller flavored with black humor. It premiers in theaters Thursday.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)