The worst day of a man’s life is about to take a turn for the macabre. Bounding home from his mother’s funeral, homicide detective Gu-Soo (Lee Sun-kyun, gracefully piling on the frustration) accidentally strikes and kills a pedestrian. Wondering where to stash the stiff, the remarkably resourceful Lee converts mom’s funerary box into a casket built for two. As curtain-raisers go, it trumped this year’s competition. In only his second film in almost a decade, director Kim Sung-hoon (How the Lack of Love Affects Two Men) displays a mastery of the art of building and sustaining suspense. Watching Lee resourcefully smuggle the corpse into the mortuary or later give chase to a potentially corroborating witness will no doubt spike your heart rate. However, as tightly constructed as they are, a few crackerjack action scenes do not a policier make. The latest edition of The Film Critic’s Book of Rules allows for only one flagrant coincidence per film, and then only if it’s administered early on. It just so happens the man Lee flattened on that deserted stretch of road is wanted for murder. A Hard Day delivers its doozy up front, but it doesn’t stop there. Happenstance happens, and the only way Sung-hoon can untangle his complex plotting is with a third-act logjam of fortuitous events, almost steering it in the direction of a hard watch before a compensatory kicker rings down the curtain. (2104) — Scott Marks
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