Take a Drink: every time poor Go’s day gets… harder
Take a Drink: for every clue we get that he’s perhaps not the cleanest cop
Take a Drink: for the damn dog
Take a Drink: whenever somebody tries to yell himself out of a problem
Take a Drink: for that ringtone
Take a Drink: whenever somebody takes advantage of seniority
Do a Shot: for every taboo violated
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Even if you’re familiar with Korean film, you’re likely to picture stylish and severe arthouse flicks or brutal serial killer or revenge dramas. Or maybe you think of The Host, or if you’ve been in an abusive relationship with your movie theater, a Kim Ki-duk movie.
A deadly serious incestuous castration drama? Eh, he’s done worse.
You might not know, though, that some of the world’s most awesomely kickass action comes from there, and A Hard Day files its claim alongside the best of the lot. In it, a dirty cop’s life is flipped upside down when he hits a pedestrian with his car the same night his family is sitting for his mother’s funeral and an Internal Affairs officer has uncovered his unit’s dirty dealings. When that pedestrian turns out to be a wanted criminal, things somehow get even worse.
A Hard Day follows the spirit if not exactly the letter of its title. Lee Sun-kyun plays Officer Go, a sad-sack kind of guy who’s clearly used to life’s slings and arrows, but the series of events set off at the beginning of the film are a whole new level. Director Kim Seong-hun tightly controls a propulsive, ever-intensifying pace as shit keeps spinning ever more impressively out of control for this poor bastard. He’s like that middle-aged lady at work who’s apparently contracted every disease under the sun and that’s all she talks about.
You know the one.
Thankfully, Officer Go is an endlessly resourceful and clever kind of guy. He’s like a B-side John McClane, without the Alpha Male toughness but just as much an improviser and ultimately survivor. He also ends up in his fair share of impressive action sequences, staged with polished, clear-cut, and always beautifully coherent aplomb by Kim. Why we keep hiring palsied Frenchmen for big Hollywood action instead of Choi Dong-hoon or Jo Yeong-wook or even Ryoo Seung-wan is beyond me. Kim Ji-woon probably deserves another shot as well.
Oliver Megaton’s DP, Dick Poop, is a trailblazer of sorts.
A Hard Day is also very, quite darkly funny. The film takes a special glee in making Officer Go violate a series of cultural and ethical taboos, to the point where you start to wonder if God or the Universe or Karma have a personal grudge against him.
Somewhat unfortunately, Officer Go ends up having a more conventional antagonist. Cho Jin-woong is an absolute beast, nonchalantly chilling and nigh-nere unstoppable on almost a horror movie villain level, but the plot takes a turn for the predictable and even rote when he shows up.
A Hard Day ends up being more of a pure genre play than at first blush, but it’s action done damn right.