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Misfortune befalls a crooked detective in this South Korean black comedy

Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This month: The A.V. Club atones for its sins of omission, recommending the best movies of the year that we didn’t review.

A Hard Day (2014)

A feature-length pileup of increasingly harried, harrowing predicaments, South Korean crime thriller A Hard Day more than ably lives up to its title via the story of homicide detective Ko Gun-su (Lee Sun-kyun), whose ordeal begins when he leaves his mother’s funeral and, while trying to avoid a dog in the middle of the road, accidentally strikes a civilian dead. With a patrol car approaching the scene of this crime, Gun-su decides to hide the body in the trunk of his car—a cover-up that only leads to further trouble when he’s then stopped at a drunk-driving check point (where he’s harassed for being uncooperative). If that weren’t enough stress for one night, Gun-su soon finds that the corpse in his trunk may be discovered by an internal affairs team looking into his squad’s corrupt conduct, thus leading to a breathlessly staged sequence in which the detective endeavors to sneak his lifeless victim into the morgue and hide him in his mother’s casket, all as the facility’s employees become suspicious of his weird behavior.


That’s a lot of plot for one film to handle, and it’s only the first third of A Hard Day, which soon has Gun-su working overtime to keep his inadvertent homicide a secret—a mission complicated because the guy he ran over is wanted for murder, and an anonymous caller who witnessed what Gun-su did and wants to blackmail him. Writer and director Kim Seong-hun overstuffs his script with so many obstacles for his protagonist to overcome that the film plays like a hilariously cartoonish black comedy. Though its energy eventually flags a bit during a third-act that veers into more traditional cat-and-mouse territory, the film has enough surprises—including a late, hilariously unexpected death—to maintain a constant sense of bleak lunacy. Fast, fleet, and consistently funnier than most straightforward comedies, it’s a breakneck portrait of the perils of dishonesty. An American remake is probably inevitable.

Availability: A Hard Day is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Netflix and possibly your local video store/library. It can also be rented or purchased from the major digital services, and is currently streaming on Fandor.

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