Gu (Shota Matsuda) is a zainichi Korean living in the southern port town of Shimonoseki. He’s a high-school dropout and delinquent, working odd jobs while getting into brawls and beatdowns in the streets and docks. Word gets around that Gu’s high-school juniors Tatsu and Masaru tried to ransack the house of rival Kim Chong-jin, but botched the job since Kim wasn’t home. They end up beating Kim’s grandmother to death and setting his house on fire. Tatsu is arrested by a relentless detective (Atsuro Watabe), but Masaru escapes. Gu trolls the streets of Shimonoseki trying to uncover the motives behind the attack, but violence and brutality greet him around every turn.
Based on director Gu Su-yeon’s autobiographical debut novel, Hard Romanticker is a yakuza gangster movie with equal parts slick style and chaotic carnage. Featuring a bevy of young, masculine Japanese actors, the film is in some respects a modern-day Clockwork Orange set in Japan. While the trademark London toughs of Stanley Kubrick’s classic are replaced by ostracized Korean-Japanese chimpira (small fry) in Hard Romanticker, both films share a nihilistic worldview of brutal youths living out their carnal dreams in the modern wasteland of today’s urban jungle. In other words, quite a lot of the old "ultra-violence."