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A Hard Day Review – BFI London Film Festival Special

A Hard Day Review – BFI London Film Festival Special

The good news for Detective Go Geon-soo is that he missed the dog in the middle of the road. The bad news is he hit the person. Thus begins what can only be described as A Hard Day for Go as director Kim Seong-hun’s inky black sophomore effort puts him through the wringer for close to two hours.

That Go (Lee Sun-kyun) doesn’t strictly follow the law is no secret. It seems everyone in his homicide unit, and the wider Police force strays occasionally. What matters is the degree to which the rules are bent. A little bit of light embezzlement is ok unless you happen to get caught with wads of cash. A dead body in the car, even if accidental, is not. Poor Go finds himself stuck on the day of his mother’s funeral with the need to rush back to the station to hide his illegal takings, and then after his little roadside mishap, hide a body as well.
a-hard-day-still-02Kim is only interested in one pace – full speed ahead. He puts Go on a treadmill that keeps getting faster until he’s sprinting at full pace just to stand still. As he dodges drink driving charges, it almost leads to the discovery of the inconvenient body in the boot of the car. When he finally finds a hiding place – his mother’s coffin – he then runs into a cop even more corrupt than him who’s after the body. It just keeps getting worse as trouble piles up.

The violence leaping free from the plot is pleasantly assured. Kim is a kid on a three day sugar rush as he mixes flinching blows with dark humour. Heavy items drop from nowhere onto unsuspecting heads, scuffles break out in toilet cubicles and apartment blocks are trashed. The final fight recalls the recent end boss battle pyrotechnics of The Raid 2 in its increasingly implausible brilliance.
a-hard-day-still-01Comic scenes work just as well. Kim is adept at orchestrating awkwardly tense set pieces. The highlight is Go’s frantic efforts to sneak a corpse into his own mother’s coffin. It involves helium balloons, a ventilation shaft, a remote operated toy soldier, one coin and an unwanted mobile ringtone. Go has just wandered into the oddest episode of Blue Peter yet.

In Lee, he’s also found the perfect leading man. He brings an understated presence that allows the bizarre events of his day to mount up without crossing into pure farce. His look of permanent confusion sits perfectly on Go.

Sure it’s all very conventional, sure the plot falls to one side to make way for the latest debacle; but it’s fun. A Hard Day must feel like an accurate description for Go. For everyone watching it couldn’t be further away from the truth.


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