Genre: Mystery and thriller Action.
Starring: Jo woo-jin, Kim Chang-Ju, Lee Jae-in.
Director : Kim Chang-Ju
Running: 1hr and 34 minutes.
To begin on a personal note, I’m a big fan of supporting actors that progress to being leading men in their own right. Kwak Do-wan, Lee Sung-min, Yoo Hae-jin and Sung Dong-il are some names that spring immediately to mind when you think of such South Korean actors. With “Hard Hit”, director Kim Chang-ju’s debut thriller, yet another extremely reliable actor, Jo Woo-jin, makes the same jump in resounding style.
He plays Sung-kyu, as a VIP Bank Manager , who handles high-end VIP clients for his bank. The day has begun like any for him: he gets in his car and takes his daughter and son to drop them at school. Along the way,a phone call from a restricted caller ID tells him that a bomb has been planted under his seat and will go off if anybody exists the car or if Sung-kyu doesn’t do exactly what he is told, which is to transfer a ransom to the caller. Disregarding it as a prank call at first, Sung-kyu starts to take it serious when a bomb goes off right in front of him in another car and trouble piles up when he becomes the prime suspect of that bombing.
Busan plays racetrack for the story, and the port city is an excellent choice to set this Korean adaptation in, taking Sung-kyu and his family into crowded, traffic-heavy streets and all the way to the very edge of the city all the way onto the beach, with Kim Tae-soo’s cinematography making the most of these picturesque public exteriors. The car chase sequences are also well shot and sharply edited by Kim Chang-ju himself, whose editing skills are on good display yet again, keeping the thriller accelerating ahead and on track. Music often plays a key role in these productions and Kim Tae-song’s work is no different, not limiting itself to genre sensibilities and trying something new while also amplifying the overall tension of the narrative.
Another interesting aspect of the cinematography is how it uses a lot of close-up shots for its in-car scenes, which is always a risky endeavour. But this is where the actors’ performances shine. Jo Woo-jin manages to make the most of this, his face showing a wide range of subtle yet noticeable changes to go with the emotions of the character, bringing the fear, urgency and tension of the scenes across accurately. Lee Jae-in, who portrays Sung-kyu’s daughter Hye-in is equally impressive, even if some of the character’s actions are objectionable. Ji Chan-wook makes an appearance in the latter half, but barely gets enough time to make an impression.
There is frankly much to like in Kim Chang-ju’s debut feature, as well as some elements that don’t sit well with you if you think even a little bit about it, but allow it its little flights of fancy and it is sure to take you on a full-throttle ride.