A HARD DAY (2014)
Riveting thriller speeds ahead without an ounce of storyline fat as a homicide detective tries to cover-up his own crime and is tormented by a mystery eyewitness
A ‘playing all the hits’ addition to the enlarged Korean crime thriller-mystery genre, A Hard Day does not just charge through its runtime, but offers an adrenaline-laden roller-coaster where every development flows directly into the next peak of conflict.
Even the most ostentatious of action films allow the odd resting and reflection scene, but the sufferer of the title’s ‘hard day’, Detective Ko Gun-su (Lee Sun-kyun – Paju, Helpless, Nobody's Daughter Haewon), can barely rest his lungs before panic descends on him once again.
The initial set-up certainly passes muster on meeting the title’s promise too – driving back to his mother’s funeral after a few drinks he hits a man in the road and decides to bundle the body into his car boot to avoid potential manslaughter charges.
Add to this bother his squad being put under investigation for bribery and Detective Ko must clear his boot before internal affairs arrive. At the funeral home, he undertakes the rather ambitious, and deeply troubling, task of burying the body in his mother’s coffin.
Thinking that he has somehow pulled off the unlikely ruse, he then finds himself on an investigation to find the missing man he hit and buried. Aided slightly by his corrupt and incompetent colleagues, his troubles really explode when a mystery stranger claims to have seen Detective Ko commit the hit-and-run and threatens to expose him.
With blackmail on the cards, Ko realises the stranger is not a foe that will be easily intimidated and finds himself as a desperate puppet for this character instead.
There are plenty of familiar Korean crime genre rifts here – the corrupt and senseless cops, the rapid spiralling of circumstance, the smacks of violence, and the smatterings of dark comedy.
The thriller playbook is out and yet A Hard Day does plenty to feel original enough. A film that many viewers are likely to agree on just going with and enjoying every inch of the wild ride.
For the black comedy element, while this is through-out and often achieved through the madcap far-fetched nature of the story, the true hero of this element is the stranger tormenting Ko. It would reveal too much to state their name or screen actor, but rest assured this ultra-violent figure is one genuinely funny sharp-tongued baddie.
While that notion of ‘far-fetched’ is fair, the film still manages to be consistent and believable enough, in the context of its own wild ride. It is not – as is sometimes the case – the characters’ stupidity that keeps the story going, but rather that their self-interest and desperation keeps the plot honest.
A well-crafted thriller that no audience member could complain of boredom, regardless of how much it moves them in other ways. A 100mph crime thriller.