There are times when nothing seems to go right -- but that is upped several levels in A Hard Day, a South Korean modern film noir (with a slightly misleading title) where problem builds on problem, sometimes with deadly results.

Things start badly for Go Geon-Soo (Sun-kyun Lee), a detective with the South Korean police department.  He's driving home from his mother's funeral, where he'd been drinking, and is pestered on the phone by his sister to bring back a chocolate cake.  His colleagues at the police department warn him that Internal Affairs is raiding their office, where Geon-Soo has bribes from small businessmen in his desk.

With all this going on, Geon-Soo still manages to swerve his car to avoid a small dog in the road.  Unfortunately, while looking back at the dog  he hits and kills someone who ran into the road.  The detective panics, dumping the body in his trunk -- and almost immediately gets stopped at a drunk driving checkpoint.
 Impressively, from there things get worse.  Geon-Soo has to control his temper long enough to get rid of the body (for which he has a novel solution involving balloons and a toy army man), deal with his sister and son, fix the damage to his car, and handle Internal Affairs.  But then the precinct gets word that the man Geon-Soo is wanted for murder, and everyone's trying to find him (while Geon-Soo is frantically trying to cover his tracks).  And then Geon-Soo gets mysterious phone calls from someone who claims he saw what the detective did -- and who wants the body.
A Hard Day is straightforward, and it's also well done.  Sun-kyun Lee is very good in the main role, as his corrupt cop who's used to getting away with anything by flashing his badge keeps falling deeper and deeper in trouble and complications.  Man-sik Jeong is suitably crafty and violent as the blackmailer ready to turn Geon-Soo in (or worse) if he doesn't go along, and the action ranges from desperate planning to an almost primal physical battle at the end.  A Hard Day may begin at night and take place over several days, but it's certainly engaging.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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