A Hard Day (2014)

And you thought you had a hard day. How about this guy’s day which began with a double dose of bad news. His mother has died, and his wife wants a divorce. Of course he’s upset and he’s had a drink or two. While driving, he gets a call that he must visit the undertaker as his mother’s body is ready to be put into a casket.

On the way there, he’s driving and it is night. He’s not quite speeding but suddenly he sees a small dog in the road. He swerves the car to avoid hitting the dog, and a second later he hits a man in the road. The man is dead.

Our guy panics, because he knows he’s had a drink, so he decides he must conceal his crime. So he puts the body of the guy he ran over into the trunk of his car. Within minutes he drives and finds a policeman waving his car over. It’s uniformed cops looking for drunk drivers.

They ask him to take a roadside breathalyzer test. He refuses and then tries to talk his way out of it.

I’m Homicide Detective Ko of the Western Division, he tells the uniformed cop. Can you just let me through, this time. No, the uniforms have their orders. They insist. He refuses. They insist more strongly.

A struggle begins after he pushes the uniform away. He is subdued but now they want to search his car.

That’s just the opening of the film – maybe the first five or seven minutes. And from there – it’s going to get worse.

The film is entitled A Hard Day. It is a South Korean action/thriller by design, but is also a very dark film in the sense that there’s a lot of what you know as ‘black comedy’.

Usually that means – a serious subject, or subjects, like death and divorce, road accidents, police corruption, and violence – are given a twist. This is not say there are jokes, or one-liners, or even funny situations. But when all of the above are compounded, and you reach a series of edge-of-seat thrills all because the movie script wants to shock the audience, you’ll find relief when they take their foot off the accelerator, and you get a respite.  And that is how black comedy works.

That’s when you say something like, Whew! That was intense.

But then it starts up again, and every thing is amped up not ony again, but with more intensity.

Such a film is A Hard Day. Written and directed by Seong-hoon Kim, and starring Sun-kyun Lee as the hard luck Detective Ko and Jin-woong Jo as his nemesis Park Chang-min.

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Jessica Jones – From Marvel and Brand New on Netflix

Marvel’s Jessica Jones arrived on Netflix on November 20th. With 13 Episodes – each an hour, and shot mostly in New York, Jessica has arrived and set the internet ablaze.

While I am definitely far away (in age) from the modal demographic of either those that follow super heroes, or those that are encamped in the Marvel Universe, I have an understanding of the term anti-hero. Jessica is a hard-drinking, wise cracking, tough, foul, and self-loathing private detective. She doesn’t do the high-tech industrial espionage kind of cases. No, her work is what is called matrimonial.

She’s hired by wives who want out of their marriages and Jessica is turned loose to provide the photographs and evidence needed to not only get a divorce, but to get a healthy settlement as well. In one sense, she’s like a modern-day J.J. Jake Gittes – a role played by Jack Nicholson in the classic detective yarn – Chinatown.

She’s certainly a dark character who will brood, drink herself to oblivion, as well as handle any kind of physical threat that comes her way. The showrunner of Jessica Jones is Melissa Rosenberg, who does a fine job of slowly letting the story coalesce. Jessica has some super powers but it takes us a while to see them in play. We get hints, or even a few strong hints, but her powers are kept under wraps longer than you might expect.

With most of the superheroes like Clark Kent/Superman or Bruce Wayne/Batman we usually start with a lengthy trip into a back-story, or origin. Not here. We meet Jessica who is having a spat with a client. – She ends up tossing him through the glass window in the door of her down-market office/apartment, and for a good number of episodes, her front door is half-door and half cardboard.

Located somewhere in the mid 40’s west of Fifth Avenue, this apartment serves as her home base, and almost every character we meet over the 13 weeks will spend some time here.

But if you watch carefully, you’ll begin to notice somethings that seem a bit off. Jessica’s building has no locked street door. Seemingly you can go from the street to Jessica’s half-door without a key. There’s also a predominant use of some of the city’s many bridges. We are under the 59th Street Bridge, or the Manhattan Bridge, or the Brooklyn Bridge, on either side of the river, more times than you can count.

But I’ll blame that on the location scouts who chose locations for their look rather than any kind of sensible logistical reasons. Like one minute you are under the West Side Highway at 135th Street on the Upper West Side, and a moment later you’re in DUMBO (the Brooklyn nabe that is Down Under the Manhattan Bridge). It isn’t so much ‘bad’, rather it seems too contrived.

Another thing that I noticed is that it seems like they went out of their way to conceal the names of the Manhattan streets. Eventually I noticed a store called Balloon Saloon, which is a real shop on West Broadway.

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