Midnight Runners / 청년경찰 (2017) Review

Let’s get straight to the point!
What kind of movie is ”Midnight Runners” (2017) starring Park Seo-Joon and Kang Ha-Neul?
I would say it loosely falls into the “Buddy cop” movie genre with all that genre has to offer including “odd couple” comedy. Loose because, technically, the characters played by the two pretty boy leads are not cops yet. They are just attending the police academy. This means that ”Midnight Runners” (2017) is “Lethal Weapon” (1987) meets “Police Academy” (1984). To be more specific, since we are getting into the technicalities, it is more “Tango & Cash” (1989) meets “Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure” (1989) or “American Pie” (1999). The former is because, rather than the “odd couple” dynamic being “the old vs. the crazy”, the dynamic of the duo is more of a “book smart square vs the disheveled dude”. It is classic “odd couple” dynamic from the TV sitcom “The Odd Couple” (1970–1975). For the young folks, think Hermione vs. Ron of the Harry Potter Series.

What about the latter you may ask? Why “Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure” (1989) or “American Pie” (1999)? Well, that is the million dollar question! Why indeed…

The Plot
”Midnight Runners” (2017) starts with a stoic instructor’s loud whistle sound. We have a rag tag group of high school graduates taking the entrance exams for the 4 year police academy. Yes, it is basically a University program. This is where our protagonists, Park Seo-Joon and Kang Ha-Neul’s characters, meet. Like it goes, after some clash of personalities, the two becomes best of friends.

Fast forwards 2 years. These two buddies go out on the town on leave to live it up which includes chasing women like one does at 20. Both seem to basically be virgins anyway. As luck goes, rather than finding hook ups, they witness a crime in progress. However, the actual cops are too busy with existing crimes and they are wrapped in red tape. So it is up to our two leads to save the day. Our youth spend the next few hours trying to play cops. About half of this movie is set within the following 8 hours this crime occurring.

Evaluating ”Midnight Runners” (2017) is rather tricky. For one, it is a solidly made buddy cop movie. The leads have screen presence and their chemistry on screen is very enjoyable. Their comedic delivery is good and the jokes land more than not. In a buddy cop movie, this means most of the heavy lifting is already done. The movie is well paced without any point in time significantly dragging. The action is well choreographed and is funny. For a movie within this genre, it might be too greedy to expect too much more. Rarely does it delivery.

For another, what can be considered negatives of the movie are really tied to the soul or key theme of the movie. Examples of the negatives includes some of the following points. One! The contrasting elements between the leads rather quickly fade away. This makes the odd couple dynamic rather come off as a gimmick. Two! The comedy, especially in the beginning, comes off as a bit too juvenile teen comedy which can be a problem for some. Three! There is no well-defined antagonist. Four! There is not as many action scenes as one would expect. And the ones we get are rather small scale brawling scenes. There isn’t a car chase or a gun fight in the movie. For a buddy cop movie, all of these are serious negative points. So, why does this not condemn ”Midnight Runners” (2017)? 

Now we are back to my “Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure” (1989) and “American Pie” (1999) reference. For a typical buddy cop movie, the core themes are processing ones issues accumulated during adulthood through the odd couple dynamic. They learn and grow through their interactions. This is the case for “Lethal Weapon” (1987) and “Tango & Cash” (1989). This is why the odd couple dynamic is so important for this genre beyond the comedy. This is not the case for ”Midnight Runners” (2017). At its core, ”Midnight Runners” (2017) is really a “coming of age” movie in a shape of a buddy cop movie. Now you get my reference.

At the point when ”Midnight Runners” (2017) gets through its first act, the movie has two young adults at the border separating boyhood and manhood. Our protagonists had entered the police academy without much understanding what being a cop truly is. It is not merely a job or a way of paying for education. It is a calling. Spending the last 2 years at police academy didn’t change their minds. While they have the bodies of men, their minds are still those of boys. Once our boys witness the crime, the movie pushes them over the threshold of adulthood. The rest of the movie is about these two boys finding their footing as men and as cops. To serve and protect.

All of the aforementioned negatives can be contributed to this journey of the protagonists. Since the movie is not about the duo learning from each other’s differences, maintaining a clear contrast between the leads’ personalities is not important. The comedy; it is also why the comedy in the earlier parts of the movie is more juvenile; from boy to man. The small scale action scenes; this is why the action scenes are small in scale but compact. Anything larger would be beyond the perspective of these two characters’ journey. It is not about saving the world. Merely about growing up. The villain problem – no well-defined villain --- can be also explained in the same manner. It may distract the characters from their inner journey by shifting the focus to external factors; a strong villain Thus, having a vague collection of “faceless” foreigners as villains works better for the purpose of the movie. In addition, having these villains be “dirty” foreigners, rather than coming off as lazy, ends up emphasizes the primal duty of men and, as an extension, cops to protect the community from the evils of what lies outside.


”Midnight Runners” (2017) is a nicely made coming of age story about police academy cadets. While the actual plot is rather barebones, this simplicity is actually the strength of the movie as strips away any other distractions other than the charming characters’ journey to adulthood. Oh and the comedy. The movie is pleasantly funny.


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