Review: In Midnight Runners, writer-director Johan Kim recycles classic buddy cop tropes into a same-old-brand-new comedy-thriller, which benefits from chemistry of the leads, Park Seo-joon and Kang Ha-neul. It’s indeed a heroic story of two South Korean cop trainees, but, it’s also simply funny, entertaining, action-packed and sweet at the same time.
Gi-joon (Seo-joon) and Hee-yeol (Ha-neul) become unlikely best friends during their horrendous training, despite their completely different background and characters. One day, they witness an assault and kidnapping during their disastrous romance-seeking tenure in Gangnam. Despite the odds against them, they have to implement what they have learned in police academy in a real-life situation with real human life as the risk.
Midnight Runners does not offer anything new to the sub-genre, but, it mainly works because Johan Kim heightens up all the potentials he has in the script with certain confidence. He has eyes for right timing in placing the comedy and drama simultaneously while adding some adrenaline rush with highly choreographed action sequences. Even, there’s a space to insert witty satire to the way cops are working.
The first half of the film provides lots of portion to delve into Gi-joon and Hee-yeol characters and to root into their solid bromance. Some police academy quips and sketches are adorning this ‘funnier’ half until the Gangnam night moment happens. The second half—kickstarted with the titular scene—presents a bleaker story and adds occasional leap into thriller and action department. There are radical tonal differences between each half, which becomes an exhibition for the director to show off his skill in shifting tones and creating balance.
Midnight Runners’ winning shot, however, is the slick bromance brought to life by Seo-joon and Ha-neul). Starting up as two men from two different poles, they gradually break off their differences and create a strong bond. While it’s clear that the bromance is a kind of commercial bait to lure younger Korean wave aficionados, it can actually transcend that and creates a real crackerjack which cracks.
While some details do not really add up, Midnight Runners makes a real breakthrough with hearts and brains. Johan Kim definitely has bright future ahead in Korean commercial cinema industry.
Midnight Runners (2017)
a.k.a. Chungnyeon gyungchal