From South Korea, where genre mash-ups are frequently the biggest box office success of the year, comes Extreme Job, a combination of cop drama, broad comedy, and food porn that’s one of the most madcap films you’ll ever see.
The movie begins with a police unit breaking into a criminal’s lair, employing less than effective SWAT techniques. This ragtag bunch are then directed to spy on a local crime lord in a dodgy area of town. Unable to blend in, they occupy a chicken restaurant across the street, looking for a way to stick around unnoticed. They soon take over the restaurant as part of their undercover project, only to find surprise success when their culinary skills outpace their investigative acumen.
Ryu Seung-ryong plays chief Ko, the leader of this band of misfit cops who are seemingly better with poultry than policework. His sad-sack demeanor and quiet intensity are wonderfully realized, providing a perfect tonal pitch for the dark comedy. Jin Seon-kyu as Detective Ma, the psycho-turned-chef, is terrific, and Lee Hanee brings beauty and brains to the fore. (The actress/model/musician is a former Miss Universe contestant, accomplished scholar, and musical prodigy.) Lee Dong-hwi and fresh-faced K-Pop star Gong Myung round out the retinue, making for a disparate but convincing group of cops trying to solve the case.
The film brilliantly dances the line between taking serious the plot seriously and allowing the more surreal and over-the-top elements to shine. The mix of action, comedy, drama, and sumptuous, near pornographic shots of culinary preparation makes for a blend as sticky and sweet as the rib sauce coating the fried chicken. It’s an implausible mélange that somehow blends all these tastes together into something entirely delicious. Unabashedly entertaining, Extreme Job feels like many different films all in one. It’s a rollercoaster of highs and lows that’s enjoyable throughout.
A perfect piece of preposterous fun, Extreme Job is a hoot. With big, broad comedy, tasty looking food, and committed performances by the talented cast, it’s no wonder that Korean audiences flocked to this film and have eaten up every bite. While not as provocative as some of the more austere works coming out of the nation recently, director Lee Byeong-heon’s film shows that even for popcorn fare, South Korea can generate supremely accomplished tales that beautifully incorporate many differing elements into one highly entertaining whole. Extreme Job is an absolute blast.