Midnight Runners (Korean Film Festival in Australia)
Park Seo-Joon, Kang Ha-Neul
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…the strong chemistry between the two leads means it’s always entertaining…
This brisk action-comedy sees two police trainees, Ki-Joon (Park Seo-Joon) and Hee-Yeol (Kang Ha-Neul), find themselves sucked into danger when they witness a kidnapping while on a rare night out in Seoul’s Gangnam nightclub district.
Director Joo-hwan Kim’s second film starts out rather like a Korean take on Lord and Miller’s 21 Jump Street, or a more chaste Police Academy, before taking a different tack, winding up in territory that is not a million miles away from Scorsese’s After Hours or Landis’s Into the Night, tracking our two game but bumbling student cops as they plunger deeper into a weird and neon-strobed side of Seoul in order to rescue a girl they witnessed getting dragged into a van.
The actual cops are no help – they’ve all been pulled onto a case involving the disappearance of a dignitary’s son -and cocksure, amiable Ki-Joon and bookish, neurotic Hee-Yeol know, thanks to a rather obviously placed classroom scene, that they only have seven hours to find the victim before she’s likely killed by her captors. And so we’re off.
Midnight Runners moves along at an impressive clip, and the strong chemistry between the two leads means it’s always entertaining even when a few cultural references and assumptions might go sailing over the heads of non-Korean viewers. The action is well-staged and the tone is generally light and nimble – except when it isn’t. It’s a bit jarring to find ourselves suddenly delving into the world of human trafficking and the misogynistic violence that accompanies it when we’ve been hanging out with a matched set of charming goofballs up until that point, and the sudden shift might result in some cognitive dissonance for audience members. Still, these are the villains of the piece we’re talking about, and when justice is rained upon them in increasingly frequent action beats as the movie progresses, it’s exhilarating and cathartic in equal measure.
There’s not much to differentiate Midnight Runners from any one of a dozen similar buddy action comedies you could name, apart from quality -it’s a particularly strong example of the breed. The closing credits promise a sequel, and that would be more than welcome.