EXTREME JOB (2019)
A bucket of deep-fried fun as comedy and action are spliced together when a narcotics unit goes undercover at a fried chicken restaurant
With a global reputation for fine action films, off-the-wall comedy and even fried chicken, Extreme Job represents some manner of amalgamated Korean reference points for audiences.
More than that, what Extreme Job mainly focuses on is that basic cinematic practice – simply having fun. Never taking itself too seriously, but landing gags, both verbal and physical, with perfectly pitched timing.
Lee Byeong-heon, who cut his teeth with writing involvements in the likes of Scandal Makers, Sunny and Tazza: The Hidden Card, guides his seventh film as director here and produces the type of ticket-selling hit that will likely see him become a regular fixture across various mediums.
The film’s success starts with some sharp casting, pulling in old hands and rising stars to great effect. A police narcotics squad is headed up by Chief Go (Ryu Seung-ryong – Miracle in Cell No. 7, The Piper), who is seeing his career stall on account of his failing squad.
His squad features former Muay Thai champion Detective Jang (Lee Hanee – Behind the Camera, Tazza: The Hidden Card), ex-military Detective Young-ho (Lee Dong-hwi – The Handmaiden, Confidential Assignment), chronic gambler and former judo expert Detective Ma (Jin Seon-kyu – Tabloid Truth, The Outlaws) and the young, over-excited Detective Jae-hoon (Gong Myung – A Girl at My Door). Full of muscle, but often short of brains and luck, the squad has become the laughing stock of the station after another bungled arrest.
The group has one last chance to save themselves and starts to carry out undercover surveillance of a major drug gang. They sit in a chicken restaurant opposite the drug gang’s property, but learn the restaurant will soon go out of business.
Desperate not to lose their vantage point, the squad purchase the restaurant. When they have to knock together a meal for passing customers, Detective Ma uses a family recipe which proves to be an instant hit and the restaurant soon becomes famous for its sticky chicken. Trying to concentrate on the stakeout, the squad accidentally becomes restaurateurs.
Fast-paced, the jokes come rapidly, as do the action scenes which including sprawling fights where the squad get to flex their various skills. We do have to suspend belief in some elements as the squad is simultaneously portrayed as bumbling morons and elite level fighters.
The food itself is by no means a secondary element. The way restaurant craft is portrayed allows us close inspection of the fried chicken that does indeed deserve the queues that form for their food in the film. There feels like only one suitable meal to enjoy at the film’s conclusion.
It is a film brimming with genuine laughs, but never feels like just another wacky cop caper, but so much more than that. It is the perfect tonic for any mood, a film that you are always ready to watch. A genuine slice of fried comedy gold.