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    A Hard Day (2015): Movie Review

    “A tight, tense and intricate South Korean cop movie.” 

    A cop in distress is the hero of the South Korean crime action thriller film A Hard Day, written and directed by Kim Seong-hun. With its black humor and social mockery, the film is a taut and slick story of one man’s grievous day turning into an inescapable nightmare.

    While attending to his mother’s funeral, detective Ko Gun-soo (Lee Sun-kyun) receives a call from his team, asking him to hurry back to their station as the rat squad (internal affairs) is raiding their office. Scouring through the dark highway in his black Lotze, Ko avoids hitting a mutt only to run over a man. In panic, he hastily hides the dead body in the trunk of his car and escapes. What happens later is a long night for Ko as he attempts to pass through a roadblock and stow away the body in his mother’s casket. On top of that, his team wants him to take the heat off from their office after the raiders found bribe money in his drawer.

    After staging a fake traffic accident and concealing anything that will incriminate him, Ko receives a unanimous call. Someone knows what he has done because the man he had hit is a wanted crook, not only by the police force but also by the underworld he had connections to. But Ko will soon face a greater surprise for the unknown stalker is no one but Lieutenant Park Chang-min (Cho Jin-woong), a law enforcer with dark dealings in organized crimes. 

    A Hard Day is a tight, fast-paced, highly dynamic and elaborate thriller filled with smart surprises and raw actions. Some of its pieces are very familiar like the crooked police force and the powerful villain whose huge empire covers drugs, gangsters and prostitution. However, such clich├ęs are properly controlled and with its natural and brilliant technical execution, the film is an enjoyable heart-pumping cat-and-mouse game.

    The movie is also filled with social satire. It shamelessly depicts casual criminality in the police force, manifested with how Ko and his team accept bribe money and bend rules to evade certain procedures. The film also has plenty of black humor, particularly the ending which can send audience’s emotion to a soaring high. Action sequences are also neat, polished and realistic. It forgoes gore for much more savage mano-a-mano fight scenes. The toilet scuffle and the final battle between Ko and Park are some of the best moments in the film.

    On the other hand, the film has minor flaws. Detective Ko is inarguably a likable character. With his amazing wits, resourcefulness and resistance to coercion, he is someone to root for. As the film is all too focused on the action between the two lead figures, there is insufficient development of Ko’s character. His relationship with his family and colleagues appears too shallow. The film succeeds in portraying him as an ingenious and competent police officer but fails in showing us the man behind the black leather jacket and the all-powerful ID.

    With his good looks and affable personality, Lee provides the right intensity and drama for Ko. He excels in making the actions tense and clean, as well as in giving us hearty laughs at the proper moments. With that chubby face and searing stare, Cho is subtle but ruthless as Park. He matches Lee’s passion and dynamism, resulting to a taut, solid and nerve-wracking conflict between them. 

    A Hard Day is a well-crafted action thriller, plenty with both cop-movie conventions and jaw-dropping twists and turns. With its efficient score and awe-inspiring cinematography, it is a pleasurable two-hour rollercoaster ride.


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