While driving to his mother’s funeral Gun-soo (Lee Sun-kyun) hits and kills somebody walking the night road. His knee-jerk reaction to this pickle is to hide the body in his trunk and continue towards resting his mother.
When I think of great years, 2000, when the Playstation 2 launched, 1928, sliced bread is introduced, and in the recent past, 2014, a personal favorite of mine for movies, come to mind. That year the screens were ablaze with Whiplash, Edge of Tomorrow, and Chef, just a few of the many standouts. I recently watched Kim Seong-hun’s A Hard Day (끝까지 간다), a contribution from South Korean cinema, which further cemented my thoughts on the year.
While driving to his mother’s funeral Gun-soo (Lee Sun-kyun) hits and kills somebody walking the night road. His knee-jerk reaction to this pickle is to hide the body in his trunk and continue towards resting his mother. This same evening detective Gun-soo is rightfully under internal investigation for accepting bribes. As the film opens up he becomes more despicable and is deserving of sympathy only from the devil. However, despite this flawed character, with a gripping opening, an entertaining journey and engaging storytelling tools the film quickly takes it hold.
The movie’s startling introduction with a hit, hide body in trunk, and run creates a solid foundation for a mystery. It continues to raise questions and add tension to our burdened character. The crescendo of his worries occurs in a sequence reminiscent of Death at a Funeral, when a future Lannister is comedically placed into a currently used coffin. Gun-soo uses an uncooperative toy, rope, and his desperation to pull off a pre-burial addition. Lee Sun-kyun delivers great beats of anxiety infused with comedy to make this grim moment lighthearted yet suspenseful. This first act is excellent as it adds depth and intrigue to plot’s mystery. The film continues on this track for a bit, but it changes gears and morphs into something new.
A new cop, Park (Jin-woong Cho), who knows Gun-soo killed somebody, shifts the movie’s tone. Park’s angelic introduction quickly flips and his true colors are revealed when he blackmails Gun-soo. The movie’s mystery takes a back seat and becomes a cat and mouse game between the two. His fiendish demeanor swings the negative perception of Gun-soo; the former despicable cop turns into a bouquet of fresh daisies. Despite the story being familiar, a face-off, like Collateral or Heat, it’s still enjoyable to watch because both characters are intelligent and play off one another nicely. The movie holds onto it’s dark comedy elements keeping it from being dull. Although some charm is lost with the genre changes, the narrative paces nicely and an entertaining package with twists and turns is delivered.
A Hard Day confidently crafts invigorating visuals to tell its fun story. When the film is about Gun-soo hiding his dark deed, there is a tense scene involving his co-worker investigating evidence that incriminates him. The co-worker is framed, unfocused in the foreground, with a worried Gun-soo, in the background, staring helplessly as dots are being connected. The blurry co-worker moves closer to the evidence engulfing Gun-soo to create a moment of anxiety. The film’s arsenal like blocking, focusing, and acting are on full display with this nerve racking sequence. Despite suffering from a muddled identity, similar to the The Gift, it’s visual style doesn’t drift awry. The film continues to employ the camera to great effect using pans, tilts, and more techniques to enhance this standard story. The camerawork and overall production style bring freshness to the wearied eyes of Hollywood screens.
The movie has a strong beginning and is a pure entertainment ride at its core. It opens with great shock and awe that quickly demands attention. Although this grasp doesn’t last long, it still manages to portray an exciting battle between two appalling characters. The visual elements break from the mundane as a wide range of methods used offer new stimuli. This aids in keeping a formulaic tale, the confrontation between two forces, as the refreshing gift it is. The year 2014 was great for movies and A Hard Day is an excellent addition to it.