The Korean comedy movie “Extreme Job” was released on Jan. 23 and racked up a total of 81.6 million USD and more than 10 million ticket sales in its first 15 days of screening, becoming a major box office success. This profit is even more significant when considering that the production budget for the movie was a meager 5.8 million USD. The film set a new record by being the first January comedy movie to surpass 1 million viewers within the first three days following its release, and is also the fastest Korean comedy film to hit the two million viewers mark. The movie has been acclaimed by critics for its clever incorporation of amusing scenes, as well as its realistic portrayal of contemporary social issues.
The film stars famous actors such as Ryu Seung-ryong, Lee Dong-hwi, Lee Hanee, and Jin Seon-kyu, along with a new face, Gong Myung. These five actors comprise the main cast, playing a team of unsuccessful cops. In the beginning scene of the film, the audience is given information about the characters’ current situation; they have been working undercover to track down and capture a group of drug dealers that is later revealed to be part of a much larger drug gang. After getting into trouble while attempting to capture these criminals, the team faces the possibility of forcible disbandment by their superior, and is given one last chance to make it up; find out the location of the drug gang’s base of operation and report back with the information within three months. The movie follows the team as they fight through high odds to accomplish this task, and portrays the struggles they face in the process in a humorous light.
The main difference between “Extreme Job” and conventional Korean comedies can be found in its character setting; the main characters in the movie are a group of cops on a mission to hunt down a gang of criminals, an atypical theme not often mixed with the genre of comedy. Most Korean comedies deal with ideas of romance, personal struggles, etc., and while the movie does incorporate such themes, they play a relatively small part in the overall plot. Another difference “Extreme Job” has from other Korean comedy films is that barely any background information about the characters are given at the beginning of the movie, and more and more information about them is revealed as the movie progresses. For example, the audience only finds out at the end of the film that all of the main characters – who were portrayed as relatively incompetent throughout the entirety of the movie – are actually professional athletes that specialize in sports such as judo, baseball, and Thai boxing, providing an explanation for their impressive combat abilities.
Although the main characters are portrayed as renowned athletes in the movie, they find themselves working at menial jobs for extremely low wages. This reflects the Korean social standard that only academics will guarantee a stable, long-lasting job with financial security, as well as the Asian tendency to look down upon those majoring in music, the arts, and physical education. Additionally, although the movie eventually concludes with a happy ending, this is attained through the main characters receiving job promotions, reflecting another Korean idea that economic and social achievement is essentially the only way that people can “succeed” in life.
A novel amalgamation of comedy with action and romance, “Extreme Job” gives the audience an unembellished portrayal of everyday social issues. It candidly reflects the flaws in Korean society, namely its over-competitive nature, academics-oriented culture, and limited definition of success. By keeping its main characters within the boundaries that contemporary society fences people into, the movie gives an unconventionally realistic depiction of the problems of today’s world, but softens the blow by layering the cold, hard truth with a coat of humor.