Trucking through life as everyone dies.
Available in Canada, the United States, and perhaps a few other countries. I don’t trust those Amazon links, but it does seem to be on Youtube. Approximately 96 minutes.
Jung Cheol-min is a truck driver. Because of that job, he is often away from his mother and young daughter. But that doesn’t stop him from talking on the phone with his daughter while on a drive, assuring her that he will get her a sketchbook while insisting that that is not a promise and lying that he stopped smoking.
Cheol-min stops by a business contact to talk about money troubles…and give him money for the goods. The guy mentions Young-ji Lake, a place where the lonely and destitute go to disappear.
This is a lovely conversation that Cheol-min manages to twist in a way that he invites himself to a pork lunch with the others. Oh, wait. That’s the pork, huh.
The buddy asks Cheol-min to help hold down the pig. Cheol-min protests that he cannot stand the sight of blood. Still, the others hold him down and the guy stabs the pig. He smirks at Cheol-min’s disgust, saying that a young man like him shouldn’t be so cowardly. Sheesh…I don’t suppose that this sequence could be foreshadowing for anything.
Sometime later, Cheol-min is driving through a tunnel, listening to the static-y radio reporter talking about the arrest of a serial killer named Kim Young-ho. As the movie spends 40 seconds on this, with TV footage, I am guessing that this will play a part in the storyline at some point.
I suppose that that is right now, with Cheol-min’s coworker watching the news footage and cursing out the suspect while Cheol-min is just trying to have a relaxing dinner after a hard day’s work. He asks where the other workers are. The coworker guesses that they are out playing poker. Apparently, a coworker named Kim (not the serial killer) won ten grand in one night. The coworker wonders if he should try his luck, but Cheol-min says that he will go broke and that gambling is for fools. And with that, Cheol-min takes his stuff and goes home.
Cheol-min’s mother and daughter are asleep, even though they kept the lights on. That seems like something that would run up the electricity bill. Well, now both of them are awake and the daughter, Da-young, asks about the sketchbook. Oh, surprise surprise, dad forgo…oh, actually he got her one. And then he goes to sleep next to her. The light is still on.
And now Cheol-min is at the doctor, as Da-young has a checkup. Apparently, she has a genetic condition that had killed her mother. The doctor insists that Da-young will be okay, as long as she eats well, does not exercise excessively, and does not get too stressed. Well, that’s that. Nothing to worry about.
After the checkup, Da-young insists on having a hamburger. Specifically a hamburger, or she will just starve to death. Cheol-min eventually gives in and they have hamburgers. Da-young then repeats something that her grandmother says, that she should avoid someone like her father, who does not keep his promises. What? He let her eat a hamburger…eventually. Oh, she is upset that he has not taken her to the sea. He…does not remember promising that, and Da-young accuses him of lying and threatens to stop eating if they don’t go. Cheol-min has to go back to work. But fine. They’ll go to the sea.
Da-young points out that this is not the sea. Cheol-min insists that this is better than the sea is at this hour. And besides, they should wait to go with grandma. Then he brings up an aquarium. That has a bunch of sea animals there. They can go there? What else does Da-young want to see?
It is the next day. While Cheol-min is at work, Da-young is at recess. No one is playing with her on the playground, so she approaches a group of girls at the merry-go-round and asks to play. One of the girls says no, but another one suggests that Da-young can push the merry-go-round. So, as Cheol-min is haggling over a stuffed animal for Da-young, Da-young is engaging in some excessive exercise. An excessive amount of excessive exercise…until…
Cheol-min and his mother wait outside of the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital. They are not allowed inside, but they briefly see Da-young when someone opens the door.
Cheol-min begs Da-young’s doctor to save her. The doctor is blunt. She needs heart surgery. There is a donor. But there is a boy who is also compatible for the transplant. Though he has no hope of living, his family is rich enough to pay for the transplant anyways. To get to the donor first, Cheol-min will need to pay 60,000 as soon as possible. Sooner than that.
With little money of his own, Cheol-min goes around getting money from loan sharks. But it is still not enough. Finally, he talks to co-worker Kim, who had gotten a lot of money from gambling. Cheol-min is desperate. He tried to sell his truck only to be told that it is worth 10,000. He claims that he has one nothing wrong in his life, but would kill someone right now if it paid enough. Maybe sell a kidney. Finally seeming to understand what Cheol-min has been saying for the past several minutes, Kim suggests poker. Cheol-min is not interested, but eventually gives in.
The two go to a gambling den underneath some hostess club and with them secretly collaborating, Cheol-min is able to get 3,000 in 3 hours. But then one of players starts to raise the stakes, resulting in Kim and another player to fold. Cheol-min stays in. The two keep raising the stakes until Cheol-min throws in the keys to his truck. After he signs a contract to hand over the truck, the two show their cards. Uh oh. The other guy wins.
The other guy walks off and tells one of his associates to take the money. Cheol-min is incensed. He claims that the other guy had a card in his hand that was already on the table. But the other guy’s goons pull him away from the table and beat him up. During all of that, he is somehow able to see Kim getting paid off by the other guy. Double-crossed. Is this how Kim was able to get all of that money in the first place?
Cheol-min breaks free of the goons and chases Kim upstairs. He corners Kim and knocks him into one of the private rooms to find…
Cheol-min tries to run away, but the goons catch up to him. Turns out that the guy there is the boss of the goons. Having witnessed him killing these customers and hostess, Cheol-min has to die. Kim tries to convince the boss that Cheol-min won’t talk, even mentioning his sick kid. The boss knocks out Kim with a bottle, but sort of changes his mind about killing Cheol-min. He burns up the truck contract and tells Cheol-min to drive the corpses away to a place where no one will find them. He can keep his truck and all of the money if he does.
The goons put the corpses in the back of Cheol-min’s truck. Practically in tears, Cheol-min turns the key and starts driving into the daylight.
And, just in case you were wondering, yes, things are going to get worse.
So, this movie is called 24 Hours to Die and it is from 2008. So, it is not the movie of the same title from 2016 or the movie 24 Hours to Live from 2017. It is also called Truck and The Truck, which are probably a little more difficult to Google.
I could not find all that much information about the movie. Apparently, director Kwon Hyung-jin claimed that his intent was to focus on capturing the emotions and actions of a character in an extreme situation. And, yes, it is certainly extreme, though it is more that he gets into multiple extreme situations at the same time.
Cheol-min seems like a rather normal guy. He is not a paragon of virtue, but he tries remain an honorable man while taking care of his family, or what is left of it. He finds it difficult to earn a living delivering goods on his truck, but he seems to get by just barely. Illness killing his wife and afflicting his daughter is a cliché that director Kwon would use again in his next movie. Still, having to deal with the illness may explain his financial struggles, and her financial struggles may explain why he was (and his wife was) unable to get the illness treated properly earlier.
Cheol-min is also a man trying to live in a world of death. He has already lost his wife, and may lose his mother in however many years. Now, he has to worry about his daughter’s life. Yet, it appears that he encounters so many people who have not only become used to death, but wants to involve him in death. There is the guy who gets him to help kill pig. He tells Cheol-min about the lake of undiscovered corpses like it is just another anecdote. There is the arrest of a serial killer. There is the doctor who tells him about the available heart and the rich boy who is going to die. I suppose that we have no reason to assume that those loan sharks would try to kill Cheol-min if he failed to pay them back, but he went to enough that at least one of them might. And then…who knows how his colleague Kim got mixed up with murderous gangsters, but there is a lot of death.
The movie is billed as a thriller and, yes, there are thrills. But it takes a little while to get there. It starts as a rather low-key drama before turning into a thriller. And maybe around halfway through, one could argue that it curdles into dark comedy. At some point, it gets to be a bit much as the bodies pile up. It is understandable that Cheol-min is under a lot of stress, and may not always be in the right frame of mind. Yet, there are times when he just breaks down in his thought process. Other times, he just cannot get the words out, making it easy for people to misinterpret him. Also, other people can act kind of stupidly at just the right time to not help him. And then, there are the rather odd storytelling choices at the end. This is hardly the first movie in this series that I admit to have been enjoying for the wrong reasons. To be sure, this movie still works on its own terms and it takes things very seriously. But…you know…
Yeah, this movie can be a bit much, but I enjoyed it.
WTF ASIA 227: Milestone (India: 2020, approx. 98 minutes)
Available in Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, and perhaps a few other countries.
WTF ASIA 228: Revenge (Kazakhstan: 1989, approx. 100 minutes)
Available in Australia, France, the United Kingdom, and perhaps a few other countries. It is also available in the United States and probably Canada. I don’t know why JustWatch says that it is not.