Review: Midnight Runners

Midnight Runners is about the good and bad implications of youth. The basic premise of Midnight Runners is two police cadets witness a kidnapping and they do their best to save her. Along the way, they uncover an egg farming operation and are blocked by the dreaded red tape of bureaucracy.

Park Seo-joon and Kang Ha-neul both do a great job playing students who are eager to do whatever they can to retrieve the girl. Their partnership is a bit stereotypical for a movie like this, a buddy-cop action film. Park Seo-joon plays the not-so-bright guy with a big heart and Kang Ha-neul plays a bookworm. Their friendship is solidified when Kang Ha-neul’s character, Kang Hee-yeol, sprains his ankle during a training exercise and Park Seo-joon’s character, Park Ki-joon, is the only one to help him, albeit only helping because Hee-yeol promised to buy him steak. After the pair fail at picking up girls at a club, they try to make a move on a pretty young woman and while they’re debating on who gets to go up to her, she gets kidnapped. And it’s this kidnapping that forces the boys to question why they want to be cops as the pair previously showed a half-hearted interest in the career.

They report the crime to the local police station because they figure, “Hey, we’re students. Let’s have the professionals handle this.” But they learn that the son of a powerful businessman has gone missing, and all police resources are going into finding the son. It’s an order from the chief after all. They then resolve to find the girl themselves. They run through the things they’ve been taught at the academy, hoping that will be enough to save the girl before it’s too late.

It’s evident that the plight of the young woman touches their hearts as they learn that she ran away from an abusive home and was unlucky enough to live with another person who sold her to the kidnappers. As they question the other girls for any more background info on the girl, Yoon Jeong, they lie –  lie that they’ll get her back because they honestly have no idea what to do without access to police resources. And as they sit in the taxi, they realize that the group they’re going against is smart. They target runaways because no one will miss them. And there’s a horrifying moment when they find out where Yoon Jeong is.

She’s not alone.

When Hee-yeol goes up the stairs to where Yoon Jeong is kept, there’s a bunch of girls yelling out for help. They discover that the Chinese-Korean gang is injecting these girls with a drug that forces their body to increase the amount of eggs produced, so they can sell the eggs to a fertility clinic. These girls are young and incredibly fertile. They’re a goldmine.

They fail to save the girl after a fight with the leader of the group and turn to their professor for help. But their professor just proves to be another stumbling block for them. He tells them that for this case to be solved, they have to direct this to the proper units within the justice system. But this could take months. And the boys know time is of the essence. They continually pressure the professor to do more to help and the professor yells out, “You’re just students!”

But the boys set out to prove that just because they’re students, it doesn’t mean they have a lesser understanding of justice. They make another attempt to take down the gang, but not before bulking up and stocking up. During the training montage, the audience is treated to shirtless, sweaty images of the pair, possibly thrown in for the female fans of the two actors who have come to see the movie. And the boys load up on any weapons they can get their hands on. Well, anything besides a gun because this is not set in America.

They’re successful in taking down the gang but they are heavily injured at the end. And now, they’re at risk of being expelled for their actions. Which sucks for them because now they know why they want to be cops: to find justice for those the justice system will ignore. At the hearing, their professor, who previously chastised them for attempting to solve the case, praises them. Specifically, he’s praising their youth. He reminisces of a time when his sense of justice was just as strong as theirs. All the boys wanted to do was catch the criminals. It’s a simple wish that most cadets have before becoming jaded by police procedures and the way of the world. Luckily, the disciplinary board recognizes that they were doing the right thing and only orders them to do a lot of service hours and that their time in the academy has to be extended.

The narrative isn’t the only thing in this movie that touches upon the subject of youth as the action scenes highlight it as well. Also, there’s a sense of brutality in these action scenes that make it hard to enjoy. They’re inexperienced and the training they receive in the police academy is mainly for defense. When they go against the thugs, their fighting is sloppy, hoping to do anything to land a hit. It also doesn’t help that the thugs probably have more experience in street fights and that they fight dirty. And the thugs have no problem throwing their hardest punches, most evident in the scene when the leader of the gang throws Ki-joon around like a plaything.

In the end, this is a pretty simple film. There’s a basic premise and some average characters, but the heart of the story grabs you. And tears will definitely flow during the mid-credits scene when Yoon Jeong comes to the police academy to thank the boys. They’re surprised of course, but they’re happy to see her. Because she’s alive and healthy. Her future is bright. And so is theirs.

By Priscilla Tov

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