Extreme Job (2018) ☆☆(2/4): A half-fried cop comedy

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I am not an ideal audience for South Korean comedy film “Extreme Job”, which is currently having a considerable box office success in South Korea after released in last week. While I understand its comic appeal to local audiences to some degree, I did not react well to its numerous heavy-handed moments of cheap comedy as frequently noticing its sketchy plot and broad characterization, and I only found myself more bored, annoyed, and depressed in the end as reflecting on its failure to utilize well its supposedly funny comic premise as well as its good main cast members.

In the beginning, we are introduced to a police squad led by Chief Go (Ryu Seung-ryong), who attempts to arrest several small-time criminal junkies along with his team members but inadvertently causes a disastrous outcome in the end. While he feels quite miserable after being chided a lot by his direct boss, one of his colleagues hands him a small case involved with a certain member of some big local drug organization who was recently released from prison, and he and his squad team members soon begins a stakeout around their target’s main operation site.

Of course, things do not go well for them from the beginning. While their target does not do anything particularly suspicious, they almost get themselves exposed to their target due to a small absurd incident at one point, and then they have no choice but to do their job at a fried chicken restaurant which happens to be right across from their target’s main operation site.

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While eating lots of fried chicken for maintaining their cover, Chief Go and his squad members come upon a seemingly brilliant idea for approaching closer to their target. Considering that their target has often ordered fried chicken, they will probably be able to infiltrate further into their target’s operation site through delivering fried chicken, and they instantly go for their idea when they happen to learn that the owner of the fried chicken restaurant has been considering selling his restaurant due to bad business. Thanks to the bank savings of their youngest squad member, they immediately buy the restaurant from the owner, and they soon get a closer look on their target as running the restaurant on the surface.

However, running the restaurant turns out to be more complicated than expected. As their stakeout is frequently disrupted by customers, Chief Go decides that they should serve their customers fried chickens for maintaining their cover, and, after he and other squad members respectively try to cook chicken, it is eventually decided that Detective Ma (Jin Seon-kyu) is going to be their chef mainly because his fried chicken tastes far better than others’ results. As a matter of fact, he does his new job so well that more customers come for tasting his delicious fried chicken, and Chief Go and his squad members find themselves concentrating more on serving these customers instead of keeping watching on their target.

This is surely an ironic comic situation, but, unfortunately, the screenplay by director Lee Byeong-hun and his co-writer Bae Se-young only throws predictable cheap laughs while never fully developing the comic potentials inside this comic situation. While the main characters in the film remain to be more or less than cardboard figures only demanded to look silly or exaggerated. the story itself often feels uneven and contrived, and that weak aspect of the movie is further exacerbated during its second half, where Chief Go and his squad members come to get far more involved with their target than expected.

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Above all, their investigation process is not particularly interesting to watch. It is initially a bit fun to watch them bumbling a lot in their investigation, but I found this rather tiresome in the end, and I frequently shook my head as they merely keep going on without any smart tactics while also doing unbelievably stupid things at times. For instance, during one certain scene later in the film, one of them happens to get a crucial piece of information while being with several criminal figures, but he only comes to draw more attention instead of not getting noticed, and that is just one of many idiotically contrived moments in the film.

The main cast members of the movie try as much as they can do with their cartoonish characters, and there are a few watchable comic moments thanks to their diligent efforts. While Ryu Seung-ryong, who has deftly moved around many different genres since his memorably intense supporting performance in “War of the Arrows” (2011), provides some gravitas to the story as required, Lee Honey, Jin Seon-kyu, Lee Dong-hwi, and Gong Myung are well-cast in their respective roles, and it is really dissatisfying to watch their considerable comic talent being wasted on the screen. They all are willing to do anything for laughs, but the movie does not provide any solid ground for them, and I was also disappointed to see several other notable South Korean performers including Shin Ha-kyun and Kim Eui-sung stuck in their thankless supporting roles.

Although it is not that awful on the whole, “Extreme Job” is too crude and half-fried for me to enjoy it, and I recommend you to watch Lee Byong-hun’s debut work “Cheer Up Mr. Lee” (2013) instead, which is a better comedy film in my trivial opinion despite some weak points. While that movie has some real laughs to be savored, “Extreme Job” does not have much in contrast, and I was only left with growing disappointment, but, considering what I observed from the audiences around me during the screening I attended at last night, you may enjoy it if you simply want to laugh along with others.

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