Our Two Cents on A HARD DAY: A Crazy Korean Tale of Crooked Cops

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

Next Week’s Pick:

Our next film is the reason I wanted to do a Korean series in the first place. Ed Travis (Cinapse’s Editor-in-Chief) and I have long shared a love for The Man From Nowhere, a taut, brutal, stylish, and damn near perfect revenge action-thriller. We both count as a personal favorite, and can’t wait to share with you.

Like its protagonist, the film materialized seemingly out of nowhere in 2010 and floored audiences with its story of a withdrawn former black-ops commando who unleashes the full hell of his fury on a criminal gang that has abducted a young girl from his neighborhood (who happens to be his last meaningful connection to humanity). If you loved John Wick or the original Taken, you owe it to yourself to watch this immediately.

We managed to find the film streaming free at Yahoo! View, but if you don’t want to watch it from a computer (it deserves big screen treatment), it’s available to rent in the usual spots like Amazon Video.

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)cinapse.co!

Our Guests

Doug Tilley (Boner Vivant):

I saw A HARD DAY at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2014, and I had rather muted expectations going in. Despite a love for Korean crime thrillers, I had zero familiarity with the director, and the TIFF plot summary didn’t seem very promising.

But I didn’t just enjoy it, I absolutely loved it. I was raving about the film afterward, which seemed to get a bit lost in the embarrassment of filmic riches at that year’s festival (by which I mean Why Don’t You Play In Hell?).

It’s not only a powerful crime film, with unexpected twists and turns and a final confrontation that almost slides into slasher movie territory, it’s also uniquely hilarious, with a darkly comedic sequences spread throughout worthy of Hitchcock.

And I don’t bring up Hitchcock lightly. This is an expertly paced and constructed film, and there are a few high tension bravura sequences (particularly the coffin scene) that are absolutely unforgettable. There’s a command of tone here that you rarely see in the West, and it holds up to repeated viewings. Worth going out of your way to check out. (@Doug_Tilley)

The Team

Brendan Foley:

With a premise like this, the mark of whether the movie works or not is how tightly the filmmakers turn the screws on the characters and how rewarding it is for the audience to watch the pieces fall into place and the situation worsen.

Director Kim Seong-hun keeps things moving with aplomb, finding new ways to torture and humiliate his protagonist, and for a while the movie cruises along on black-comic vibes.

Things take a bit of a turn with the introduction of a super-villain antagonist for our hero to battle, and I’m of two minds on that turn. On the one hand, taking our protagonist from a dope who brings all his own misery down onto his head and turning him into a classic noir fall guy trying to escape the clutches of a mastermind robs the film of its cheerfully nasty charge.

On the other hand, Cho Jin-woong is just so much fun as the deliciously evil big bad. Both performer and character are clearly having a ball, and it’s infectious, bringing the film to a rousing finale that left me exhausted and exhilarated in equal measure. (@TheTrueBrendanF)

Austin Vashaw:

There’s a handful of microgenres that South Korea outright dominates in my mind — terminal disease romance, bleak & bloody action-revenge, and terrible cop taking down someone even worse.

Public Enemy has always been my favorite of that last category, but A Hard Day is certainly giving it a run for its money. And when a movie sports a title like that, you’ve just got to brace yourself and say, “Hit me, baby”.

A Hard Day hits hard, and I found it exhilarating. After a pretty abrupt beginning, it settles into darkly humorous suspense, such as an outrageous attempt to hide the corpse by dragging it loudly through an air vent (a forgivable use of a cliche trope), and then putting into his own mother’s coffin — only for the dead man’s cell phone to ring once it’s sealed.

The movie soon settles into a new groove when a mysterious stalker threatens to out his secret and becomes a sort of cat-and-mouse thriller, maintaining the humorous edge but packing in tons of huge moments and surprises. (@VforVashaw)

James Carey previously covered A Hard Day for its showing at Fantasia Fest 2015. He’s no longer with us, but we always relish the opportunity to share his insightful and hilarious reviews.


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[Blu-ray] | [DVD] | [Amazon Video]

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