Kkeut-kka-ji-gan-da (A Hard Day) Review

Posted: September 17, 2014 in 2014 Fantasy FilmFest, Action, Foreign, Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

A-Hard-Day-1Ahead of October’s release of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, we have the Korean adult version known as Kkeut-kka-ji-gan-da or A Hard Day. Alexander may have to deal with setbacks like gum in his hair and a trip to the dentist, but that hardly measures up to the grown-up problems our hero, Go Geon-soo (Seon-gyun Lee), faces.

Geon-soo must plan his mother’s funeral, deal with his own divorce and the custody of his daughter, and stay a step ahead of the internal affairs team investigating him and the other members of his police squad for alleged corruption.  But what proves to be the capper for the good detective is when he runs over a pedestrian late at night on a deserted stretch of road.

What’s a well-meaning, but black-souled fellow to do? Naturally, stuff the body in the trunk, start a brawl at a DUI checkpoint with some fellow officers, and then discover how difficult it is to dispose of an extra corpse at a funeral home. And this is just the first 20 minutes of Geon-soo’s no good, very bad day.

Director Seong-hoon Kim starts the action at an accelerated rate and maintains a tremendous pace throughout the 111-minute runtime of this engaging action film. Timing is everything here as director Kim, who is also credited with the screenplay, does not want to let things lag long enough for the audience to begin poking holes in the preposterously fun story. What clinches the win for Kim is the ultimate weapon in a cop movie – a great criminal adversary. It seems that the stretch of road was not completely deserted after all, and the eyewitness to the accident wants to be compensated, while the official investigation of the incident begins to hone in on Geon-soo.

Cho Jin-woong as the villainous Park Chang-min is brilliant, mixing the exact measures of charm, intellect, and pure menance to create a terrifying counterpart to Geon-soo. The evil Park is necessary to cast Go as the hero since the early going in the film does not portray our protagonist in the most flattering light. In fact, as the viewer sees misfortune raining down on the head of the corrupt detective, the reaction is amusement rather than empathy, and the movie is in danger of spilling into farce. Cho’s performance has an immediate galvanzing effect on the action, crystalizing the story into a cat-and-mouse game with life-and-death consequences.

Director Kim and film editor Changju Kim demonstrate a particular skill at crafting and teasing out tension-filled scenes, most notably at the beginning in the funeral home and then, late in the film, at the faceoff between Geon-soo and Chang-min. There are a few misses to go along with the considerable number of hits in A Hard Day. The hero’s child at risk has been done to death, and while the device will never be retired, it is overdue for an extended vacation. Also, the other members of Geon-soo’s squad seem to ebb and flow in their importance to the detective and the overall story.

Still, those shortcomings aside, Go Geon-soo’s bad day is the viewer’s good time.

Three stars.

 

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