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Midnight Runners - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2017

Action, Comedy, Thriller

Jason Kim

Park Seo-joon
Kang Ha-neul
Sung Dong-il
Park Ha-sun
Go Joon
Lee Ho-jung

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Midnight Runners

Midnight Runners - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Gi-joon (Park Seo-joon) enters the police academy because his parents are poor and he can't afford an expensive university degree. One of his comrades is Hee-yeol (Kang Ha-neul), an intelligent, young man who has enrolled at the academy because he doesn't know what else to do. Eventually, the two become friends and ask Professor Yang (Sung Dong-il) for a day out in order to get to know some girls at a club. However, this doesn't really work out that well and the two, being deeply disappointed, head back to the police academy. Yet, on their way they witness young girl Yoon-jeong (Lee Ho-jung) being kidnapped. The two are aware of the fact that the first seven hours are crucial if they want to find the girl alive. They contact the police, but the police force can't dispense with any man. The two police academy students don't have a lot to go on, but they eventually find a trail to follow. This trail leads them to a ruthless group of Chinese-Koreans that kidnaps girls who have run away from home. They steal their eggs and sell them for a lot of money. Now, it's up to Gi-joon and Hee-yeol to rescue the girls...

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Midnight Runners - Film Screenshot 4

Review: There are movies that don't promise much and in the end manage to deliver more than you expected. "Midnight Runners" is one of those rare cases. In this action comedy the gags are neat, the action hard-hitting, the villains really evil and the main characters incredibly likable. All of this makes for a movie that isn't cobbled together with brute force, but instead is actually composed with a lot of care. Particularly appealing is the youthful energy the flick oozes out. Lighthearted, but always being aware of the danger the heroes do what's right, although they are obviously no police officers yet and thus make a few rather stupid mistakes. What would be logical errors in other works can easily be pinpointed on the heroes' inexperience. Pretty clever.

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At first, there might not be happening a lot, but as we are still in school the movie showcases its very own special charm. In some way everything takes place within a very small framework, although the case might ultimately reach a bigger scale. This is thanks to the two protagonists and their bromance factor. The chemistry between the two is just right. One of them is the physically superior part of the duo, played by Park Seo-joon ("Chronicles of Evil"), and the other one is the brain, embodied by Kang Ha-neul ("Twenty"). But things don't stay at such a simple division of labor, which would also border on being caricatural. Gi-joon is in fact occasionally getting the ball rolling again in the case thanks to his street smarts and Hee-yeol knows how to stand his ground in the fights, too. It's just this toying with our expectations which makes the relationship between the two so three-dimensional.

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Therefore, it's also the two protagonists which ooze out a great amount of charisma and instantly suck us into the story. And the story also proves to be pretty well-done. In large part, the investigation is actually pushed forward by the two students. The two heroes' ineffectiveness can naturally be traced back to the fact that they are still in training. But even the real police can't pride itself with being effective. One film critic noted that "Midnight Runners" is an obvious propaganda vehicle for getting more Koreans to sign up at the police academy. After all, the police's hands are tied most of the time because there are too few officers. If there actually is propaganda to be found here, it is hidden adequately enough, in my opinion. Moreover, as I see it, there is first and foremost some criticism on the administrative barriers of how the police may pursue a case.

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The story around human trafficking is surprisingly dark and some of the sets seem to be taken right out of a thriller. At the same time director Jason Kim ("Koala") constantly adds a good portion of humor to his film which mostly has its source in the two characters and doesn't feel forced. This always lightens up the mood to the degree that things simply become fun. Furthermore, "Midnight Runners" always succeeds in delivering more than it has to. A good example is the action. Although this certainly isn't a martial arts movie the finale has strong elements of such a flick. We have a villain the two have to fight and before that they also have to battle their way through a small army of thugs. The action is tough and nicely choreographed. It doesn't look polished at all, which is why it doesn't lose its authentic flair, but it is well thought through.

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The fights are thus an unexpected highlight. Most importantly, it's the great pacing which never gives boredom any chance to creep in. The movie is constantly in motion, knows exactly when the next hint for the story to progress needs to be found and lets the protagonists score with their charm and outstanding chemistry. "Midnight Runners" has a few pecularities which create the feeling that we have never seen a movie like this before. That's extremely rare. Contrary to other buddy movies there isn't a funny extra added in the end to top it, instead the movie goes for a well-rounded and satisfying ending. "Midnight Runners" doesn't make any serious mistakes, although it doesn't aim at being perfect. Maybe that's the the biggest appeal of this very entertaining action comedy. By the way, a sequel is promised during the end credits.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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