A Hard Day is screening at this year’s Korean Film Festival in Australia. See the KOFFIA website for more details!
There’s something to be said about throwing the audience into a film with a literal crash. Launching the story with an accident, learning about our main protagonist Go Gun-su (LEE Seon-gyun) as he makes a bad decision work is tense, exciting and wonderful setup for the unravelling of his ‘perfect crime’, something we no doubt expect from a film with such auspicious beginnings (not to mention something spoilt in the plot synopsis).
It is the standard setup to many a horror or thriller story, where the decision to cover up an innocent mistake has horrendous consequences. If left to less capable hands than the director Kim Seong-hun and his team, the film may have delivered a very by-the-numbers and uninteresting story. That is fortunately not the case in this instance, as the usual mix of tones expected from Korean films and the playfulness with genre and expectation makes this thriller not only tense but black in its comedic moments, delivering an enjoyable and recommended experience.
A good part of this comes from the wonderful villain of the film, Park Chang-min (CHO Jin-woong). The character itself is perhaps a little shallow, with just enough back-story and motivation to place him as the role of antagonist. His portrayal however is akin to a indefatigable monster — which may be a spoiler that ruins that half-doubt that may arise following the resolution of a key scene. Nonetheless, the final confrontation is filled with wonderful callbacks and physical humour that contains shades of the slapstick of Jackie Chan or Buster Keaton, whilst still maintaining a tension for the audience between the expectation of certain events and the unknowable resolution.
The black comedy in this film has a element of schadenfreude to it, since it mainly consists of digs at the state of police corruption in South Korea. As such there is a mocking tone to some of the police brutality and violence that seems so common to Korean films, something that elevates the material here above its cops and robbers milieu.
Overall the film is an enjoyable romp, particularly for those jaded with standard genre fare. It is clever and exciting and constructed in a manner that makes it impossible not to both simultaneously laugh and stress over.