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A Hard Day - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Ggeut-gga-ji Gan-da

South Korea 2013

Crime, Thriller

Kim Seong-hoon

Lee Seon-gyoon
Jo Jin-woong
Sin Jeong-geun
Jeong Man-sik
Shin Dong-mi
Kim Dong-yeong

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A Hard Day

Story: Go Geon-soo (Lee Seon-gyoon) is a police officer and simply is an unlucky guy. While driving to his mother's funeral he runs someone over by accident and hides the body in his trunk. At the same time the Internal Affairs Bureau investigates Geon-soo and his colleagues since they take bribes. For that reason they also want to check his car. Starting to panic Geon-soo hides the body of the man he overran in his mother's coffin. But with that the policeman's problems aren't solved. His next case centers around a killer the police force is looking for. It is the same man Geon-soo ran over with his car. Furthermore, an unknown man contacts him and seems to know eveything about what he has done, trying the blackmail him. It turns out that the blackmailer is fellow police officer Park Chang-min (Jo Jin-woong) who desperately wants to get his hands on the body of the killer. Thus, Geon-soo tries to find out what kind of connection there might be between Park and the dead man and what's so special about the body.

Review: Contrary to expectations "A Hard Day" has led to a storm of enthusiasm by critics at the Cannes Film Festival. And even though this kind of enthusiasm is exaggerated, it's easy to make out why the action thriller resonates so well with audiences. The story is tightly told and full of twists so that there isn't a single minute of boredom. Apart from that the movie isn't trying to ride on any kind of popular plot wave (for instance the North Korean spy theme), but simply delivers a right-in-your-face thriller that focuses on the basics and realizes this in a very nice way. Moreover, the thriller stands out because of some morbid humor that sometimes shines through and blends in seamlessly thanks to the characters. Even better director's tried their hand at this and failed.

A Hard Day - Film Screenshot 11

Director Kim Seong-hoon already delivered his debut work seven years ago with "How the Lack of Love Affects Two Men", a movie that nearly no one took notice of. And since that day he has worked on a neat screenplay. And he actually succeeded in delivering one. But to dampen expectations there isn't anything extraordinarily new. Yet, the plot is pretty smart within the framework it works and constantly delivers new twists. There also aren't many plot holes either and when there are they are brilliantly concealed by humor. Even the scene at the beginning when Geon-soo tries to make the body disappear is decorated with all kinds of absurdity that makes you laugh and raises suspense at the same time. Clearly one of the movie's biggest strengths.

A Hard Day - Film Screenshot 12

The humor is also the reason why you can root for the protagonist. After all, many films with a similar theme have failed because you couldn't warm to a hero who actually isn't one. Geon-seo is a policeman who takes bribes. The whole police force seems to be taking bribes which makes the movie's tone pretty gritty. Yet, he remains one of the good guys. Partly this is because of the unique portrayal by Lee Seon-gyoon ("Helpless" or countless Hong Sang-soo movies like "Oki's Movie"), who has a talent for bringing an unusual mix of intensity and humor into the movie, and a villain played by Jo Jin-woong ("Nameless Gangster", "Perfect Number") who comes across as extremely charismatic and threatening at the same time.

It is without a doubt the effort of Jo Jin-woong that you have to laugh out loud at the most improper moments. He apparently balances on a thin red line of controlled madness and with that drives Geon-soo into the very same. That's not just entertaining, but as already mentioned thrilling as well. There isn't a single moment the movie is treading water. The pacing is even so good that the ending seems to be dragging on too much, even though it really isn't. However, the showdown displays the same kind of high tension and humor that runs through the whole movie. Protagonist and antagonist can make you laugh without turning themselves into laughingstocks and this special mix is what's making "A Hard Day" so successful. But as a unrelenting thriller the film works out pretty well, too. The morally ambigious characterizations we are confronted with is something you are normally used to see from Hong Kong movies.

A Hard Day - Film Screenshot 13

The concern that you might not be able to root for a hero that feels no remorse for his hit-and-run are soon cleared away. That is because the villain is simply even more evil and accordingly we are easily willing to follow Geon-soo on an emotional level. That this is enough for us to care is also the effort of the good directing, because the simple attempt to bring the hero's family into the movie as a vehicle for emotional attachment isn't really well achieved. Furthermore, it would have been nice had there been put some weight on the psychological aspects of the protagonists' actions. Apart from that "A Hard Day" is a nice genre entry, though, which shows its strength in the shape of morbid humor and scores with a fantastic pacing and a tightly told plot. A more than solid effort by director Kim Seong-hoon.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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