is having a harder day
Dir. Kim Seong-hun
Starring: Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Jin-woong
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Have you ever have one of those days? You know the kind. We all have them. You're as boiled as a fucking owl on whatever rotgut you've chugged back before getting in your car to drive to the funeral parlour so you can deliver a fond farewell to your mother, laying stiff in her coffin, and then you hit some goddamn pedestrian, killing the bastard, and adding insult to injury, after tossing his sack of potatoes carcass in the trunk, you're stopped and hassled by a bunch of rookie traffic cops doing a spot check. It's a total piss-off, right?
Luckily, for Ko Gun-soo (Lee Sun-kyun) in Kim Seong-hun's A Hard Day, he gets a reprieve when the boneheaded tax-collectors-with-guns drop a few loads in their drawers upon discovering that he's a highly-placed detective within the Seoul police department.
Phew! He's on top of the world. For now.
Unfortunately, just as he's in the middle of a ceremony involving the nailing shut of Mom's coffin, he finds out about some mega-shit going down. A clutch of internal affairs dicks are onto his graft and high-tailing it to the funeral home to roust him. Now, he's gotta figure out some way to smuggle the corpse in his trunk into the funeral parlour and get it into his mother's coffin before the turncoats get there. Adding insult to injury, his partners want him to take the fall, the pedestrian he killed is a notorious made-man in the Korean mafia and he's eventually assigned to investigate the disappearance of said gangster.
This is going to be a hard day, indeed.
For us, Ko Gun-soo's troubles mount exponentially and we're treated to one of the most suspenseful, brutal and funny Asian crime thrillers in many a day. Director Kim Seong-hun displays a taut command of cinematic language to keep us sliding off the edge of our seats and both the action and laughs come fast and furious. Even more extraordinary is the perverse likability of this nasty piece of work for a hero. Granted he's Jesus Christ incarnate compared to the other filth around him, so that we're allowed to root for the least egregious wad of crap is some kind of miracle.
Reminiscent of Jon Finch's accused murderer Blaney in Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy Ko Gin-soo just can't seem to get a break. His troubles pile up so insurmountably that we're hoping against all hope that he gets out of the various sticky wickets assailing him. The movie puts us directly in his shoes and as such, we can't help but marvel at director Kim Seong-hun's complex and downright dazzling approach to the material.
I'd like to say that Hollywood would do well to pay attention to these extraordinary Asian masters of art, craft and genre, but the reality is this: all that's going to happen is the crapping out of more lifeless American remakes of Asian movies directed by round-eyed losers with eyes made of tin.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ Three-and-a-half Stars
A Hard Day plays at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto via VSC. Visit the TIFF website for tickets and further info HERE.