Edited by Yang Young Jun
Translated by Cho EK
They shouldn’t have stopped. Indeed, there were moments when I thought, ‘It’s like the Korean version of Speed’ with a bit of exaggeration. But when the speeding car stopped on the road, the suspense melted away. Yes, I’m talking about the movie Hard Hit.
Sung Gyu, a bank branch manager, receives a phone call from an unknown caller on his way to work. The unidentified caller threatens him, saying, “ If you want to live, prepare a large sum of money because there is a bomb planted in your car,” but soon, he downplays the phone call as a lame scam. But after witnessing his co-worker’s car exploding in front of his eyes, he realizes that the man behind his phone was not making prank calls or conducting voice phishing. He knew he would end up dying like his colleagues if he ever attempts to get off the car, so he has no choice but to stay in the car. To make matters worse, Sung Gyu has to comply with the man’s request on the phone as the police chase him as a suspect in the bomb attack.
It’s a familiar story: the protagonist, trapped in a claustrophobic space, goes back and forth between life and death under the threat of someone. It is a trope of crime thrillers, but the film chose not to deviate much from this. While it could’ve been a ‘good crime thriller movie,’ Hard Hit begins pulling out weapons to break the sense of déjà vu.
First of all, the beginning of the movie is fast-paced. Shortly after the film begins, the car explodes without any explanation, and Sung Gyu starts rushing through the streets of Busan. He thinks, ‘My children and I could really die.’ The beginning quickly draws the audience into an immersive look at the scene. This is the point where director Kim Chang Joo’s mastery stands out. He previously worked as the editorial director of crime thrillers. He was acclaimed for his unique tension-filled plots, such as The Terror Live and A Hard Day. It is also pleasantly surprising to realize that the movie is set in Busan, not in Seoul.
The performances of the actors are also brilliant. Jo Woo Jin, who took his first step as a lead actor, portrayed a father’s desperation compellingly to protect his daughter and son. And Lee Jae In showed good partnership by playing the role of his daughter, Hye In. Their relationship at the beginning was somewhat distant, but seeing them getting closer in crisis was touching. The presence of Ji Chang Wook is impressive. He plays Jin Woo, the criminal who pushes Sung Gyu into an extreme situation. Although most of his appearance largely depends on his voice acting, his cold voice coming through the receiver is attractive enough. The sense of speed from the chase scene was remarkable in itself. Due to the excellent acting of the cast, the movie’s tension stayed tight enough, even if the movie focused on dialogues and facial expressions in a limited space.
However, in the middle of the movie, when Sung Gyu stops his car at Haeundae Beach, the movie’s virtues disappear. The blasting car stops out of the blue, so the audience, who have been watching it with sweaty hands, comes to lose interest. Of course, the movie had some impressive scenes, such as patching up the father-daughter relationship, the police starting their intervention, and mysterious Jin Woo unveiling his identity. But, the car just stopped for too long a time. It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that 94 minutes felt tedious because of this lack of speed.
The ‘incompetent police officer,’ which frequently appears in Korean thriller films, obstructs complete immersion. In the drama, the only good cop is Chief Bahn, played by Jin Kyung, while others are incapable of following simple protocols or solving the cases. It was confusing to see Sunggyu as the being the suspect of the terrorism, but what’s worse was the beach scene. No matter how necessary it was, it is hard to believe that they let Jin Woo enter the crime scene without checking his ID. Instead, they believe his words that he is “the suspect’s family.” It could have been more fun if ‘the criminal was much smarter than the police’ rather than having ‘incompetent police’ in the movie.
It’s definitely a pity that it couldn’t keep its suspense until the end. However, Hard Hit is a work that combines the charms of two opposing genres: a car chase that runs through a wide-open city and a thriller that takes place in a limited space. Above all, since the movie offered a glimpse of the potential of Jo Woo Jin as the ‘single lead actor,’ this film is worth enjoying at the theater.
Verdict: Both the acting and directing were good, but the consistency was lacking (6/10)
Editor Yang Young Jun: There is at least one good part in every movie or TV series. A media geek who isn’t picky with genres.
Translator Cho EK: I’m a big fan of Korean dramas and movies.