A Hard Day: Morality Under Pressure



IN TIMES of distress, one can be left with a choice made without further thought. Sometimes, this can go against the morals he stands for. In the process, these choices can brew mistakes with grave consequences not only for himself but for the people around him. 

Directed by Lawrence Fajardo, A Hard Day is one of the eight feature film entries of the 2021 Metro Manila Film Festival. It is based on a South Korean film of the same title written and directed by Kim Seong-hun. The sole action film entry garnered multiple awards, including third best picture, the Fernando Poe Jr. memorial award, best editing, and best sound. 

The film follows Detective Edmund Villon (Dingdong Dantes), an officer from the Philippine National Police Intel unit who recently lost his mother. While on his way to the last night of her wake, he accidentally runs over a man. In his panic, he hides the corpse inside his trunk. This begins his ordeal of trying to hide the crime while dealing with his moral duties as a police officer and a breadwinner.

Screenshot/VIVA Films

Despite being an adaptation, A Hard Day manages to become more than a mirror of the original. With the stellar performance of its entire cast, well-choreographed fight scenes, thrilling car chase sequences, and comedic banter reminiscent of old Philippine action movies, the film improved upon the concept while staying true to the original story.

Although there are no significant changes to the plot, certain cultural aspects of the story are made to fit the Philippine setting. One of these changes is notably seen in the funeral parlor. The casket of Villion’s mother can still be opened as it is not sealed shut. In the South Korean film, the coffin is sealed by specially marked nails which is a part of the country’s tradition. Changes like this allow the story to show the Filipino culture without having to sacrifice the key elements of the plot.

In terms of character portrayal, the film’s protagonist is slightly different from the original. In the South Korean film, Detective Ko—the counterpart of Detective Villon—is made out to be an unlikeable character who fits the bill of being a corrupt police officer. However, Dantes’ performance allows Detective Villon’s character to show more of his emotional struggle. 

This is visibly depicted through his facial expressions during intense scenes where he shows fits of remorse, fear, and determination among others. The horrified look on his face as panic settles in after the accident is an example of this. It gives the audience the chance to empathize with his character’s motivations despite the questionable actions he made.

Screenshot/VIVA Films

Since the film does not stray from the original version’s plot, it still manages to show the themes of power play within its characters. It depicts the reality of how those in authority have the capability to abuse their power.

As it provides a realistic perspective of this ongoing problem and how it persists, the film subtly encourages the audience to ponder about the true motives of people, especially those working in government offices. 

A Hard Day shows that staying true to one’s moral compass is not an easy feat. There will be times where people will have to sacrifice their moral standards in order to choose the lesser evil. However, this does not excuse them for their actions as one can never truly hide from their wrong choices and the consequences they entail. 

At the end of the day, what will always matter is how one would use what they have learned to gain redemption. F

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