Hard Days, or Saigo Made Iku, is a new Japanese thriller film on Netflix that presents a neat but complicated story while maintaining a gripping hold on viewers. The plot is centered around police detective Kudo Yuji, who faces trouble at work because of an internal investigation, when he lands into more problems after accidentally running over a man with his car. While the story in itself is quite intriguing and convoluted, the narrative style of Hard Days greatly complements it and makes for a totally thrilling watch.
Plot Summary: What is the film about?
Hard Days is set over a period of three days’ time, at the wee end of an unmentioned year, with the narrative beginning late at night on the 29th of December. Detective Yuji Kudo, the protagonist of the film, is seen driving his car amidst heavy rain while he continuously receives calls from his wife, Misako. Yuji’s mother, who has been suffering from some serious ailment, is in a critical condition at the hospital, and only a few minutes later, he also receives news of her passing from Misako. But the police detective is not too grieved by this loss, as he is distracted by a very difficult situation at work. The entire department had been receiving regular bribes from a Yakuza mob clan, and a superior officer had ordered an investigation into this report of corruption. Since Yuji is the one who made the last contact with the Yakuza, he is naturally the one facing the most danger.
With all of this clouding his mind, Yuji drives his car very fast towards the hospital when he suddenly sees a woman jump onto the road. While Yuji is able to swerve past the woman, his car fatally crashes into a young man who had also suddenly appeared on the highway. The detective is shaken and stunned, with fear gripping him all over, as this new problem would surely result in his termination from the police force. Without thinking too much about his actions, Yuji wraps the dead body with a tarp sheet and then places it inside the trunk of his car. His intention is to get rid of the body somewhere safe and hide the entire matter, but then there is an immediate hitch in his plan.
The detective is stopped at a traffic check post, and when he refuses to comply with the breathalyzer test, a scuffle breaks out. Thankfully for Yuji, a senior police detective named Takayuki Yazaki reaches the place and saves him from getting arrested. However, as fate would have it, Yazaki is the same Internal Affairs officer who was investigating Yuji’s department for corruption. The stern man decides to go over to the police station and wait for Yuji to arrive there, as the latter excuses himself to go pay his last respects to his mother. But Yuji Kudo keeps thinking of any plan of escape, for he knows that he cannot get caught at any cost.
How does Yuji get involved in more trouble?
After this tense series of events, Yuji takes a breather and visits his family at the hospital. It is very evident from his lack of grief at his mother’s passing that Yuji was not really close to her. The death does not have any impact on him, and every part of the cremation is only a formality for him. Along with the distance between the two individuals, this also goes on to show how Yuji is as a person, for he has only been looking after his own demands and wishes for all this while, not bothered about his mother’s health, or now, her death. This self-centeredness has also broken his marriage beyond repair, as Misako has already sent over divorce papers for the man to sign. Although he does love his young daughter, Yuji has given up trying on his marriage, and he instead keeps trying to think of an escape from all his peculiar troubles.
The detective receives a call from his chief, informing him of Yazaki’s presence at the station, as the latter is waiting for Yuji to arrive. Yuji manages to avoid the situation by stating how he has to look after his mother’s cremation, and so he reluctantly goes over to the morgue, where the body is temporarily kept for the night. It is here, inside a vent outlet, that Yuji dumps the dead body that was still in the trunk of his car. Later on, he gets the idea to get rid of the body completely by placing it inside his mother’s coffin. Since the woman was already put inside a coffin, which would not be opened again and would directly be put inside the incinerator, Yuji decides to drag the other corpse into the coffin as well. He once again fakes devotion and love for his mother to stay back at the morgue and carry out his plan through the night.
On the other side, the detective keeps receiving calls from his colleagues and the chief at the police station, for they are all concerned about their own jobs. They fear that Yuji might rattle them out when he is interrogated by Yazaki, and so they want to keep him in check. But when the interrogation actually takes place, Yuji does not reveal anything incriminating, and the IA officer does not push much either, making it seem rather suspicious. Yazaki informs everyone at the station that he has found nothing against them and then leaves, as if the investigation was only a ruse. Meanwhile, the leader of the Yakuza clan that had been paying him, Senba, also arrives at the morgue to pay his last respects to Yuji’s mother, and he now tells the detective of a different mission.
Senba tells Yuji about the Zenmyoji temple, which has corrupt ties with reputed government workers and also businessmen, who all regularly donate money to the place as a means of money laundering. All of this money is stored in a vault in the temple compounds, but now there is different trouble at the place. A young man named Oda Hajime was the one entrusted to take the money from the temple to the vault, but he had now gone missing with the keycard for the vault, putting more than a billion yen at stake. Senba gives Yuji a chance to find Oda and keep a significant amount of the money for himself. Yuji agrees and starts investigating Oda along with his entire department. However, the detective realizes that Oda was the same young man he had accidentally killed, and he also reaches the factory where the fugitive was supposed to be hiding to see that it is very close to the spot on the highway where he had run over the man.
How is Yazaki secretly involved in the whole matter?
The protagonist, Yuji, soon starts to get threatening messages and calls from someone, and this man is later revealed to be the Internal Affairs officer, Yazaki. Hard Days reveals its first twist, as the stern and apparently honest IA officer was very much involved in the case of the missing keycard. Yazaki was actually the son-in-law of a rich and influential man named Uematsu, who seems to have been a government officer or a businessman. Either way, Uematsu had a lot of money kept at the Zenmyoji vault, and he naturally had very good ties with the corrupt temple authorities, too. When Oda went missing with the keycard, Uematsu ordered Yazaki to find Oda and retrieve the key from him. Yazaki was actually a high-level police officer entrusted with the smooth running of this money laundering scam, and so he had contact with Oda. However, the young man refuses to speak with him now, until he pulls a trick on Yazaki. Along with the secure keycard, the vault could be opened with only Yazaki’s handprint, and Oda managed to secure the print during the officer’s marriage ceremony. Oda then breaks into the vault and enables the doors to be opened with his own prints, so that he can steal the money over time.
Yazaki seeks out help from the Yakuza through Senba, and it is through this man that he learns of Oda’s location. On the night of the 29th, Yazaki reached Oda’s factory and then pursued the man, intending to get hold of the keycard from him. However, it was at this moment that Oda had run onto the road, and Yuji’s car had crashed into him. Yazaki saw this entire matter from a distance, including the detective hiding the body inside his car’s trunk, and then decided to pursue him. In reality, the case of corruption against Yuji and his department would have been completely ignored by Yazaki, but when he saw Yuji take Oda’s body away and realized the department he was from, the IA officer pursued the case. Yazaki only needed to access Oda’s body, and so he tried to get close to Yuji. This was why the entire department was let off the corruption charges, for Yazaki never really investigated the case.
But things had further changed when Yazaki killed his father-in-law and was convinced by Senba’s words to steal the entire money for him and receive a fat commission for this work. This is why Yazaki kidnaps Yuji’s daughter at present, threatening the man to either hand over Oda’s body or see his daughter die. Yuji once again has to get back the dead body that had just been put inside the incinerator, and he now tells his chief everything, since the chief’s help is needed. However, the chief’s role in the plan is short-lived, as Yazaki kills the man. Yuji once again seeks help from Senba and almost kills Yazaki with a time bomb after he has successfully saved his daughter.
Who ultimately gets to keep the money in the end?
Now that his daughter is secured and there is also no threat from Yazaki, Yuji Kudo sets out on his own plan, as he cuts a finger from Oda’s body and also gets hold of the keycard that he had on him. Senba’s words about how the stash of money could immediately change his life for the better had left a deep impact on Yuji’s mind. He genuinely wanted to leave the drab and somewhat helpless situation of life as a police detective, in which honesty could not earn enough money, and focusing on money inevitably meant getting involved in corruption. Therefore, Yuji now goes over to the vault in the cemetery to steal all of the money for himself.
Very interestingly, the Internal Affairs officer, Yazaki, had also been lured by these very similar words that Senba had told him. After all, Yazaki was also a police officer in the same difficult situation as Yuji, and so he wanted to get hold of the entire money for himself. Unlike it seemed previously, the bomb blast had not been able to kill Yazaki, and the man now arrives in an injured state at the vault. A tense fight ensues between the two men, and Yuji ultimately comes off victorious. However, the man is ultimately brought down by Senba and his men, who had arrived at the vault knowing very well what was about to happen.
In fact, it was the Yakuza member Senba who had made this entire plot to steal the money from the temple vault. After getting to know about the vault, Senba convinced Oda, with his very same words of inspiration, to steal the keycard and get hold of the entire money himself. This is confirmed in the short mid-credits scene that Hard Days presents. The elderly man knew that this would get Uematsu and Yazaki alarmed and that they would come to him for help. When Yazaki arrived, he informed him of Oda’s location, but in the process, he got Yazaki on his side. This would ensure that the biggest threat in his way, Uematsu, would be eliminated. Next, Senba convinced Yuji to take the mission and find out about Oda, which would essentially pit Yuji and Yazaki against each other. This is exactly what happens, and now, in the end, Senba and his Yakuza clan walk away with the entire stash of money. Senba is also seen with Mayuko, the same woman who had gotten close to Oda, meaning that she had been working for the Yakuza for all this time.
As Senba leaves with the money, the New Year ushers in celebrations all across the city, while Yuji and Yazaki lie at the cemetery, almost dead. However, on the next morning, both of them are seen to be alive, as they still try to kill each other with their cars. For a minute, Yuji considers returning to his family and settling with them, and the man even calls Misako and apologizes to her for everything. The estranged wife is ready to take Yuji back, but she is not aware that the man is fatally wounded and would, therefore, not survive. It is at this very moment that an almost-dead Yazaki arrives on the scene, and Hard Days‘ ending shows both men frantically trying to drive into each other with the intention of killing. Although their ultimate fate is not shown, it is very obvious that Yuji and Yazaki are about to die very soon.