Busan 2019: Director, actors reflect on success of “Extreme Job”


In “Extreme Job” (극한직업), a bumbling narcotics unit stakes out a drug kingpin’s hideout by buying out a fried chicken restaurant across the street. Unfortunately, they accidentally make a fried chicken recipe that’s too delicious, and their popularity explodes to the detriment of their undercover operation.

The second highest-grossing Korean film of all time is filled with snappy dialogue, Coen Brothers-level quirky side characters, and sharp comedic timing.  Director Lee Byeong-hun and two of the five main actors, Jin Seon-kyu (the judo specialist Detective Ma) and Ryoo Seung-ryong (Chief Go), appeared at the Oct. 4 screening of “Extreme Job” at the 2019 Busan International Film Festival.  Excerpts from their post-screening Q&A session follow, as spoken through a translator:

On the box office numbers

Lee: Sixteen million viewers – I couldn’t even imagine that this number would be possible.  I did hope that many people would come to see it…I was getting scared from eight million on.  And then it didn’t stop – it kept accumulating more and more.

On the director’s follow-up project, the JTBC drama Be Melodramatic (starring Chun Woo-hee (Argon, “Han Gong-ju”))

Lee: This year, I’ve experienced 16 million viewers to one percent…so I’ve experienced a wide range.

(Ed. Note: The average nationwide ratings for the drama hovered between one to two percent, although it should be noted that shows on cable television traditionally receive much lower ratings than shows airing on public networks.)

On what works influenced the movie

Lee: I can’t mention one because there were so many movies that I was influenced by: Charlie Chaplin, comedies, or movies from the ‘90s, early 2000’s, or Korean movies by director Jang Jin.  So I believe that this film is like a collection of all the comedic films that I have seen.  It’s an homage to all of the comedy films I have seen.

About whether Jin felt any pressure in playing his character, since he typically is cast as the bad guy

Jin: I haven’t done any comedy films before, so I was very nervous and I felt a lot of pressure. I really did.  In each shoot, every time the director said “Cut!,” I would ask him several times, “Was it really okay?”  So I tried to do as the director wanted me to do, and I think that everything turned out well because they did a good job in editing.

About the pressure, I still feel it.  There’s also the pressure about going into a comedy which was new for me.

The Suwon rib fried chicken

Lee: About that Suwon rib chicken, as soon as I got the recipe I tried to make it.  What I did wrong – it was too salty.  I couldn’t eat it.

On whether there were any ad-libs in the film

Jin: About the ad-libs, there were [barely] any ad-libs in the movie.  For me, at least.  Were there?  I don’t think so…I’m not so good at ad-libs.

Ryoo: The scenario was so…great that it didn’t require much ad-libbing from anyone.

On whether there will be a sequel

Lee: For now, no plans for a sequel.