Review: A Hard Day or Kkeut-kka-ji-gan-da

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A Hard Day is a neo-noir from South Korea written and directed by Seong-hoon Kim. This was released in 2014, but just recently got a DVD release here in the States.

This film stars Sun-kyun Lee as a dirty cop who is on a downward spiral and luck is not on his side. The film opens with him driving at night in the rain. He gets a phone call from his partners who tells them he will be there with the key soon. This key is to a drawer containing evidence the Internal Affairs Division is trying to get to. He next gets a call from his sister wondering where he is. He is supposed to be attending his Mother’s funeral. Trapped between two places he needs to be, he swerves to miss a dog in the road, but hits a man out of nowhere. The man is dead, so Lee puts the body in his trunk and continues on. Now he hits a D.U.I. stop and knowing he will not pass a Breathalyzer test, pulls out his credentials as a police detective.

This all happens in the first 15 minutes of the film and his luck doesn’t seem to get better as the film progresses.

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Kim’s last film was a comedy and this film has some comic moments, but it is not over the top and keeps the noir feel through out. It is a great study of character, as the film starts with the absolute worst person as our hero and as the film progresses we start to cheer for this man and hope he can get out of this endless conflict. The film has a very claustrophobic feel and will lift your heart rate through out.

If you love Asian Cinema or are looking for something new to watch on DVD, this is a good choice.

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Favorite Tidbit: This film was released to little fan fair in Korea and didn’t do that well it’s first week at the box office. Because of good word of mouth the film caught on and became a big hit, staying number 2 at the box office for 4 weeks. Hollywood blockbusters X-Men: Days of Future Past and Edge of Tomorrow where the only films to bet it. It went on to win numerous awards and nominations.

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Review: The Bad Sleep Well

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The Bad Sleep Well is a film noir from acclaimed director  Akira Kurosawa, released in 1960. Kurosawa maybe more known for his epic samurai films, but he did a handful of films noir.

This film starts out with an elaborate wedding, complete with a few arrests, some interesting toasts, and a flock of reports looking for a story as they tell us a little bit about the background of a few of the characters. This opening scene can be a bit overwhelming with the audience thrown into the middle of an intense scene with a ton of characters introduced and a lot of information in only a few minutes. While this scene maybe hard for the audience to keep everything straight, it is worth paying attention for the story to come.

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From this scene we learn a man is marrying a handicapped woman who is the daughter of the Vice-President of a major corporation. The wedding party has members of two major corporations in attendance and they seem to be partners in some illegal activities together. Turns out to be fixing bids for government jobs. A suicide from 5 years ago is brought up by one of the reporters as well as a wedding cake that references this suicide.

As the film continues we learn of an intricate revenge plot on the corporation. This film is interesting for a number of reasons. The plot is intriguing as you want to find out what will happen. We also learn about the Japanese corporate structure and how Japan looks at suicide as a honorable way of saving your bosses and family.

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Kurosawa uses William Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a structure for this film, and it has a Shakespearean feel to it. This is a long film that takes your full attention while you watch it, but it is worth it. Whether you are a fan of Kurosawa, a fan of Asian noir, or just a fan of great film, this is worth your time.

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Review: Black Coal, Thin Ice or Bai ri yan huo

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Black Coal, Thin Ice is a 2014, neo noir from China. It is written and directed by  Yi’nan Diao.

This film’s story starts out in 1999 with our hero played by Fan Liao playing a police detective who is recently divorced. He is assigned a case where body parts are found all over the country at coal factories. When some bloody clothes and an I.D. are found, Liao goes to talk to the grieving wife played by Lun Mei Gwei. Liao soon gets a lead where a coal truck driver and his brother could be the murderers. When they confront the brothers a gun fight ensues. This leaves the suspected brothers and two police officers dead. It also leaves our hero wounded.

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The film then flashes forward to 2004 where we find our hero not recovering very well from the events of 1999. He is drinking heavily and is now working security after leaving his job as a police officer. When, by coincidence, he runs into a ex-co-worker on a stake out, he joins him. They are following a woman who has had two lovers found murdered, both bodies are cut up and wearing ice skates. We soon learn the woman they are following is the wife(Gwei) of the victim from the 1999 coal truck case. This starts Liao’s own investigation into Gwei. Is Gwei a black widow like killer, who eventually kills all her lovers? Is she some kind of femme fatale? Does she have a psychopath killer for a stalker?

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This is a good film with some great cinematography. This story is engaging, with some crazy twists and turns, most you will not see coming. I thought all was known a hour in, but we still had over a half hour of more reviles. If you are a fan of Asian Noir and are looking for something new to watch, check this film out.

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Review: New World

New World is a neo noir from South Korea written and directed by Park Hoon Jeong. Park Hoon Jeong is a writer I have enjoyed before, if you have not seen I Saw The Devil, go do it right now! I will be re-watching that film and posting about it here soon.

This film is based around Jung-Jae Lee’s character as an undercover police officer in the Korean mob. The current mob boss is killed in a shady car accident and a power struggle in the mob begins. The top two candidates to lead the mob are Jeong-min Hwang and Seong-Woong Park. This starts a gang war between the two factions. Our hero’s boss is played by  Min-sik Choi who is the sector chief in charge of bringing down this mafia. We soon find Choi will do anything to gain his own power in this struggle and is maybe a little dirty. This story goes back and forth as we find new alliances and just as you think you know somebody, they will change alliances and who you are rooting for.

The film puts into question where your loyalties should lie. Friendship, family or should you just do your job? Does good and evil come in to the equation? What is good and what is evil in this dark world of crime and violence? This film is an epic gangster film from Korea in the vein of The Godfather or Goodfellas. No, it isn’t in the same class as those two classics, but if you like gangster films, especially those from Asia, you will love this film.

Review: Killers

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Killers is a neo noir film from the The Mo Brothers(Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto).  This takes place as much on the internet as in its two physical locations of Tokyo and Jakarta.  This is two stories of two men who interact on the internet and their stories intertwine throughout.

The movie starts with our first story centering around Nomura, played by Kazuki Kitamura.  We find him torturing and murdering a girl, then he posts it on the internet.  Normura has mother and sister issues and reminds you of Norman Bates in a lot of ways.  He is a very disturbing man and is very frightening, Kitamura plays this role very well.

Our second story revolves around Bayu played by Oka Antara.  Bayu is a reporter who is not happy with a certain powerful man in his country who has gotten away with abusing his wife.  This is just the latest in a string a crimes this man has gotten away with.  Bayu is obsessed with this man and bringing him to justice. Bayu soon finds Nomura’s video of his murder online and is strangely fascinated.   Bayu and his wife are separated and after one evening bring his daughter to his wife’s house and trying to win his wife back, Bayu falls asleep in a cab on his way home.  He wakes up in an empty lot with the cab driver wanting to mug him and the cab drivers big friend trying to rape him.  There is a struggle and Bayu comes out on top, he films the cab driver as he dies.  He soon uploads his own murder video to the internet and Bayu and Normura start a relationship.

Bayu continues his murder spree, killing bad men as a vigilante as Normura continues his psycho killings.  Their stories run parallel as well as intertwine throughout the film with many twists and turns.

This is a very good neo noir foreign film worth a look if you are a fan of Asian cinema.  If you like serial killers and vigilantes you will also enjoy this film.  These two stories, each on their own would still make a good film but not overly original, twisted up into one movie makes this film very fresh and enjoyable.