Extreme Job (PG13)
Starring Ryu Seung-Yong, Lee Hanee, Jin Seon-Kyu, Lee Dong-Hwi, Gong Myung
Directed by Lee Byeong-Heon
Hit-And-Run Squad (PG13)
Starring Kong Hyo-Jin, Ryu Jun-yeol, Cho Jung-Seok
Directed by Han Jun-Hee
Korean movies like to put cops in nutty and unusual “special task force” teams. The nuttier, more unusual and more obscure so that we ask what will they think of next, the better. Well, here are two more eccentric but heroic freak teams.
Extreme Job focuses on a bunch of undercover detectives who concurrently run the best fried-chicken restaurant in town while trying to catch the bad guys. No kidding. Basically, you can say that their KFC — aka Kriminal Fried Chicken — is “Felon lickin' good”.
Hit-And-Run Squad, though, centres on a small unit which investigates hit-and-run accidents. Kinda like our Traffic Police. But crazier and noisier than a demolition derby as the show morphs into a Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift knock-off.
Now, the really incredible thing about Extreme Job is that it's actually the highest-grossing Korean movie of all time, beating out a 2014 war film called The Admiral: Roaring Currents. As this flick went on, I kept wondering for the life of me, how? Because, hey, this isn't Train to Busan KFC.
Okay, the first half of this action-comedy has the audience laughing right out of their seats. A team of five bungling cops, on their last chance for redemption before they are unceremoniously disbanded, go after a gang of hard-to-nab drug suppliers. Taking over a fried-chicken joint which nobody goes to, they conduct a surveillance stakeout of the criminal gang's hideout right across the street as they wait for the big bad boss to surface.
Naturally, per instant formula, they are a ragtag bunch made up of Veteran Cop, Creepy Cop, Enthusiastic Newbie, Tough Female Officer, and Another Creepy Cop. And since they are a squad of likeable misfits scolded by their superior and mocked by other cops, they do the sort of cutesy, idiot-class antics to each other that endear people to all things Korean (such as adorable boybands, Kim Jong Un's haircut and happy hour at a kimchi food fest).
What turns a chuckle into a howl of laughter, however, is the great idea here in turning the stakeout into a takeout. The drug boss is elusive to spot and the mission takes so long, so somehow the police officers end up buying over the place themselves and then run it as a real restaurant to maintain their cover.
Turns out that one of the cops has a special ingredient so delicious it'd make even Colonel Sanders go bonkers. Business shoots up so unbelievably good that the restaurant becomes jam-packed famous, Japanese tourists make it a must-go, a TV station comes calling and the owners forget that they're supposed to be cops on the job as they keep taking orders instead of issuing them.
The audience I was with just couldn't contain themselves during this spurt of extreme comedy in Extreme Job where it's hilarious to see the cops scramble in a panic to tear off the pics of suspects on their crime board to serve chicken when unsuspecting customers start popping in. That is, until the angle runs out of steam midway and the movie reverts back to being a conventional police drama and forgets that it used to be a very funny tale about fried chicken.
The lead cop, Captain Ko (Kingdom’s Ryu Seung-Ryong), has a comical way of answering his phone as a fried chicken restaurant even when he's being chided by his boss. “Chicken never tasted so good. Is this really chicken?”, goes the slogan he uses every time. Yes, it is really about chicken and the film should've remembered this.
Meanwhile, Hit-And-Run Squad is a more serious action-drama but it too forgets its “special unit” element and segues instead into a Fast And Furious wannabe.
The rich young owner of a powerful race-car company in Incheon has a homicidal need for speed and assorted criminal activities and is bribing the corrupt police commissioner. After an attempt to nail her big boss, the bad top cop, goes wrong, the female detective in charge of the case, Lieutenant Eun Si-Yeon (Kong Hyo-Jin), is banished to the hit-and-run squad, a tiny, neglected unit that investigates road accidents which nobody cares about.
Of course, right in there is a genius nerdy oddball, Officer Suh Min-Jae (Ryu Jun-Yeol from 2017's A Taxi Driver), who is just the accidental (no pun intended) partner she needs to take down the cocky and evil race-car maniac.
You know, this movie is 134 minutes too long and feels it in the way Korean flicks don't seem to want to end, but I quite enjoyed Hit-And-Run Squad. Maybe it’s a car thing or the two leads are a good combo or at least there's an effort to give the good dude here some ambiguity (he used to be a drug-mule). Plus, as a guy who can't afford COEs, I get a kick out of seeing entire roads sealed off so that the good car can chase the bad car as though this whole thing is being set up for a video-game release soon.
It's pretty car-crashing insane and for a brief moment here, this flick could have elevated itself to a higher plane (I mean this as a “level”, not another mode of transportation). Officer Suh has a special power — kinda like Spider-Man's spidey sense — whereby he can re-create correctly to the last detail in his mind how a hit-and-run accident actually happened.
For a brief moment.
Because Hit-And-Run Squad just dangles this little bit of strange, interesting power and then abandons it to be yet one more smasheroo vehicle (I mean this as a “movie”, not another mode of transportation again).
Basically, just like Extreme Job, it hits and runs away from the great fresh idea it also forgets that it has. (Both movies: ***)
Photos Shaw Organisation, Encore Films