Movie Recap: Midnight Runners (2017)

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Park Seo-joon and Kang Ha-neul are literally running throughout the night in their anticipated and comedic movie “Midnight Runners.” After both students at the Korean National Police University witness a kidnapping happen right in front of them, they both go undercover to rescue the victim and to uncover the truth. Along the way, they discover many learning lessons and unsaid truths, including the most important one: friendship.

Content/Trigger Warning: kidnapping, blood, violence

Movie Recap: Midnight Runners (2017)

The movie starts off with our two leads Ki-Joon (Park Seo-joon) and Hee-yeol (Kang Ha-neul) in a school gym alongside the many other students preparing to enter Korean National Police University. They bid farewell with their parents and head straight to another hall in the building afterwards to get their hair cut.

It’s a tough first day at the police university. After a short orientation facilitated and lead by Professor Yang (Sung Dong-il), all the guys are called out onto the field by Captain Joo-hee (Park Ha-sun) to do some training exercises. Whether it’s in the afternoon or early morning, all the students are always training.

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As if the training wasn’t bad enough, the food they’re fed isn’t all that great either. Ki-joon complains about the small proportion of food they get while Hee-yeol can care less about actually eating the food. During lunch, Ki-joon steals some of Hee-yeol’s sausages from his plate. They also poke fun at each other while getting their body measurements done later on in the day. Annndd the bromance has begun.

They receive more training by Professor Yang and Joo-hee, but what counts the most is the final day of training where all the students are to run a mountain trail and back within an hour. Those who succeed will be able to enter the university. Those who fail will not be accepted.

Things are going fine for Hee-yeol when he suddenly trips and falls while running on the trail. He tries to stop the other students running along the way for help, but they pass by him. Hee-yeol’s only option left is Ki-joon who luckily rescues Hee-yeol in return for some Korean beef that Hee-yeol will give him.

The two don’t make it back to the field within an hour and captain Joo-hee isn’t too happy about it. Hee-yeol explains to her the situation and how Ki-joon rescued him after he fell down and got a sprained ankle. Joo-hee turns around to face the rest of the students and reprimand them for not helping Hee-yeol when they should of. They are to run the mountain trail again while Ki-joon and Hee-yeol are ordered to go to the hospital. It seems like they’re safe for now.

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In the hospital room, the two guys quickly become acquainted and close friends. Ki-joon shares with Hee-yeol his reason for entering the police university: tuition is free and his single mother couldn’t afford to send him to college. For Hee-yeol, he wanted to do something different than the usual college route that so many other students take. They vow to become friends and exchange fist bumps to officially declare their friendship into existence. This is gonna be funnn.

Along with an official friendship, our two leads are also officially students at the police university. Yay!

Fast forward two years later and the boys have easily settled into the police university. They’re even a bit tired of the daily routines and schedules, but continue to push through. First activity of the day is an exam where Hee-yeol easily dominates while Ki-joon struggles to answer the questions correctly. Afterwards is class with Professor Yang who lectures about abductions. Third activity of the day is self-defense class taught by Professor Ha (Lee Joon-hyuk) whose techniques and lessons aren’t too helpful and overly dramatic.

Back in the locker room, Ki-joon and Hee-yeol share their plans for Christmas.. except they don’t have any. A classmate of theirs named Jae-ho (Bae Yoo-ram) approaches the two boys and tease them by showing a picture of his girlfriend on his phone. Unlike Ki-joon and Hee-yeol, he has a girlfriend and he’s going to spend time with her during the holiday. The two boys get a little jealous and even envious.

They eventually manage to get Jae-ho to reveal to them how he met his girlfriend. The two boys plan on doing the same thing as Jae-ho did and hope to find their luck at the same club that Jae-ho met his girlfriend. They prepare for the big day and steal some clothes from Jae-ho to make a good first impression.

Ki-joon and Hee-yeol have everything planned out, but they have to go through Professor Yang first. Instead of scolding the students for requesting a day off, he lets them go so they can find themselves a girlfriend.

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So our two leads set off and get on the bus headed to Gangnam (of course without almost missing it adskfjd). When they arrive at the same club that Jae-ho had met his girlfriend, it’s an entirely new world for them. They’re fascinated by everything, from people dancing on the dance floor to even the celebrities (“OMG IT’S CHANSUNG FROM 2PM!”) who are at the club. Ki-joon and Hee-yeol even try to approach some girls, but it’s no use. These girls are all taken or aren’t interested. One girl in particular questions why Ki-joon would want to become a police officer. He won’t make any money off of that job.

The night ends hopelessly for the two boys. They have no luck in dating or with life in general and even become doubtful as to whether being at the police university is really meant for them. To cheer themselves up, Hee-yeol and Ki-joon decide to go to an internet cafe (a PC Bang) where they’ll play some Overwatch. Shouldn’t be too bad right?

On their way to the internet cafe, they walk past a girl talking on the phone. The boys easily become enchanted and captivated with the girl and they follow her as she walks to her destination (“God is giving us one last chance!”). But things get bad when the girl is suddenly kidnapped into a van that speeds away. Ki-joon and Hee-yeol try to run after the van, but their legs can only take them so far. They call the police to report the kidnapping, but the police can’t seem to find the van in their registry. So the two boys hurry to the police, knowing that time is running out and they must save the girl as soon as possible before it’s too late.

The Missing Persons Unit from the police station are busy with another case so they won’t be able to start on the kidnapping case. As Ki-joon and Hee-yeol were taught at the university, the seven hours after a girl is abducted is the most critical time. Any more time after that will be too late. Ki-joon and Hee-yeol decide to return to the crime scene to see if they can find any evidence.

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At the scene where the kidnapping took place, they find the bag of spicy rice cakes that the girl was carrying with her before she got abducted. Since spicy rice cakes gets mushy quickly, the girl must have bought it from a food stand or store near her place. Hee-yeol and Ki-joon visit different stores that sell spicy rice cakes in hopes of finding the one that the girl had bought hers from. Meanwhile, the girl wakes up to find herself in the moving van, surrounded by a few guys. One of the guys are in talks with another person about money and demands $500 in exchange for the girl. Noooo.

After several attempts, the two boys have no success in discovering whose store the girl had bought spicy rice cakes from. They even ponder contacting Professor Yang at one point for help, but stop themselves from going through with it afraid of how he would react.

Ki-joon and Hee-yeol are close to giving up, but they visit one last food stand just in case. Luckily, the food stand they visit is the same place that the girl had bought her spicy rice cakes from. YES! Although the owner doesn’t know who the girl is, she does recall meeting the girl once at a 7-Eleven down the street and even saw her exiting from the basement of a building near the 7-Eleven store. Our two university students head over there thanks to the small tip.

When they arrive at the building, Hee-yeol immediately recognizes what the basement of the building leads to. It’s an “ear-cleaning salon” where the female employees there clean your ears for you (among other services of course). If either of them are caught entering the salon, they’ll get into big trouble and be dismissed by the university. After playing a game of rock, paper, scissors, Hee-yeol is forced to enter the basement while Ki-joon waits outside to keep watch.

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Hee-yeol tries his best to stay focused while getting his ears cleaned by one of the female employees. Meanwhile, Ki-joon fills himself up with some ramen and his favorite food – sausages – in the 7-Eleven next to the building Hee-yeol is in. However, he panics when he sees a police car approach the basement of the building and ends up having to distract them to save Hee-yeol. Ki-joon’s plan works as the two police officers chase him down the street. Phew, Hee-yeol is safe for now.

Hee-yeol shares with the girl cleaning his ears details about the kidnapping incident in hopes that she’ll know who the girl that got kidnapped was. Since the girl worked at the ear cleaning salon, someone from the salon must at least recognize who the girl is. After a description from Hee-yeol, the female employee suddenly realizes who it is that he’s referring to. It must be Yun-jung! We find out that Yun-jung has been living with her friends since running away from home. Hee-yeol obtains the address to that house from the female employee before leaving the salon.

The two boys head to the address that they were given. They’re lead to an apartment and talk to the young man who opens the door. Yun-jung has been kidnapped and apparently lived at this apartment unit so they’ve come to ask some questions. The young man quickly figures out what’s going on and escapes the apartment unit through the back window. Ki-joon and Hee-yeol split up to chase after him.

Hee-yeol encounters the man first and utilizes the same self-defense techniques that he was taught at the police university on the young man. Turns out that it actually works and can be useful! Hahaha. After demanding information about Yun-jung from the man, our two police students discover that he had sold Yun-jung off to another man named Gun-ho in exchange for some cash. They hold onto a business card given to the young man by Gun-ho and tape the young man to the wall so he won’t be able to escape or move. Ki-joon and Hee-yeol’s next plans are to return to the apartment unit and to speak to the rest of the girls living in that unit to gather more information.

Ki-joon and Hee-yeol have an emotional and depressing talk with the two other girls living in the same apartment unit. The two girls met Yun-jung at a runaway shelter a year ago after she had escaped from her abusive household. One of the girls breaks down into tears when Hee-yeol informs them that Yun-jung had been kidnapped. But they reassure the girls that they’ll find her and when they do, they’ll contact the girls to let them know.

So the chase continues. Our two soon-to-be-cops have a serious discussion about human trafficking while they ride a taxi to Gun-ho’s restaurant as listed on his business card. It’s located in a very dangerous neighborhoods where only mostly Korean-Chinese people live. Their taxi driver warns them about the dangers of the neighborhood before dropping them off at the restaurant. Meanwhile, Yun-jung is dropped off and isolated in a dark, shabby room. She’s injected with some drugs by some of the kidnappers before knocking out (this scene was so horrific and disturbing and very very scary I almost stopped breathing omg).

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Ki-joon and Hee-yeol arrive at Gun-ho’s restaurant and sit at a table across the room from where Gun-ho and his men are sitting. They test the phone of the young man who had sold Yun-jung off to see if he actually knows Gun-ho. Sure enough, when they call Gun-ho using the young man’s phone, Gun-ho’s phone goes off in the restaurant and our two students quickly hang up. Bingo. But their roles are busted when Gun-ho calls the phone number back and it leads him to Ki-joon and Hee-yeol. The two guys have no choice but to defend themselves against Gun-ho and his men and eventually win thanks to the techniques that they were taught in their self-defense classes.

After defeating the kidnappers, Ki-joon and Hee-yeol demand for information on Yun-jung’s whereabouts from Gun-ho. Using a chicken skewers stick, they threaten him to show them where she’s located. Meanwhile, more of Gun-ho’s men are called out to rescue their boss from our two soon-to-be-cops. Nooo.

Gun-ho eventually leads the two guys to a suspicious building where all the girls they’ve kidnapped are kept. Hee-yeol heads up to the rooms first and discover a bunch of the girls, locked in their individual rooms and injured from the horrific mistreatment that the kidnappers had been operating on them. Hee-yeol and Ki-joon manages to break into one of the locked rooms and carries the little girl out of the room to save her. But as they exit the building, they’re met by Gun-ho’s group of men. NOOOO.

Both men are unsuccessful in fighting against the guys and are transported to a room inside a warehouse. They’re hung up from the ceiling of the room without their shirts on, but manage to escape the room thanks to Hee-yeol’s quick thinking and Ki-joon’s super strength. However, they face trouble again after Ki-joon’s watch alarm goes off in the room, waking up all the kidnappers who had been sleeping. They run and run and barely escape from the guys after arriving at a police station (phew! that was close!).

They try to inform the police officer at the front desk about the abandoned building with all the kidnapped girls, but the police emphasizes the importance of following protocol. If Ki-joon and Hee-yeol don’t show him their ID’s, then he can’t proceed. Ki-joon and Hee-yeol – whose wallet and cell phone had been taken away from them – gets angry at the police officer. The police officer uses his taser gun on both guys as a response.

Professor Yang is called in to rescue the two guys and even has to show the front desk police officer his own ID to do so. Ki-joon and Hee-yeol take Professor Yang to the abandoned building that the girls had been locked in and as expected, everyone’s gone. There’s nothing left at the building anymore. Ki-joon and Hee-yeol express the urgency in getting this case solved, but Professor Yang reminds them that all the other investigation units are also busy with their own cases to solve. Plus, Ki-joon and Hee-yeol are just students and not police officers yet. The most they can do right now is just wait until the other units are available so they can work on this case. Maybe if they tracked down the vehicle that the kidnappers used, they’d be able to find them faster right? But the van is unregistered which makes things even more difficult.

Hee-yeol and Ki-joon return to the police university. The kidnapped girls are still on their minds and they need to find a way to save the girls as soon as possible. While taking a shower, they come across Jae-ho who’s also there in the shower room. Our two leads become hopeful upon discovering that Jae-ho has connections to people who work at the CCTV center. Maybe they’ll be able to catch the kidnappers now using the evidence from the video cameras. But things aren’t so easy. Captain Joo-hee – who the boys nicknamed ‘Medusa’ – also works there.

They contact Joo-hee to ask if she would be willing to help them out and find any video recordings of the van within the past few hours. She notes that it’ll take a few days to find those recordings, but she’ll help the two boys out.

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With her help, Ki-joon and Hee-yeol are set. This time, they’re going to be a lot more prepared and carry some weapons with them to defeat the kidnappers. They test out the batons and the taser guns that they got themselves (“these are the weapons that Professor Yang wanted!”) and train intensively while waiting for Joo-hee’s updates on the CCTV recordings. Meanwhile, Gun-ho and his men continue to go about with their disgusting and painful practices on the girls and extracting their eggs to sell them to infertile couples.

Ki-joon and Hee-yeol receive an update from Joo-hee on the whereabouts of the van that was last captured on CCTV. She informs them where the van was last seen heading as well as the name of the fertility clinic that the kidnappers run. The two guys do their research on the clinic and finalize their plans. They’re going to save the girls in 2 days.

Fast forward 2 days and it’s the day. All the little girls are rounded up to the clinic while Ki-joon and Hee-yeol also prepare to head to the clinic. Yun-jung are one of the very first victims to be chosen to be operated on. A couple is interested in buying her eggs so that they can have a child of their own.

But Hee-yeol and Ki-joon won’t let that happen so easily and quickly. They fight against the same group of dudes that they had fought and lost to earlier except this time, they win! Using their laser guns and the batons and all the training they practiced, Ki-joon and Hee-yeol manage to fight their way into the clinic.

But they’re no match for one of the kidnappers who’s among the most powerful and strongest they’ve had to fight against yet. After many attempts and bruises and scars and blood and punches, the two boys finally defeat the kidnapper. They arrive in the operating room just in time to not only save Yun-jung, but all the other girls as well. They contact Professor Yang and police who arrive at the scene that night. Everyone is saved.

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Ki-joon and Hee-yeol are subject to a disciplinary hearing where the university board is to decide whether to expel the two guys or not. After constant arguments between those who support and those oppose the expulsion of both students, Professor Yang expresses his thoughts: what both guys did was brave and right of them to do. If they had known about the kidnapping but didn’t do anything about it just to save themselves from getting punished, that would have been bad and would have been the reason as to why they should get expelled. But they saved the lives of at least twenty girls. They should be kept in school.

Professor Yang delivers the good news to Ki-joon and Hee-yeol who are both waiting anxiously outside of the room. Both students won’t get expelled from the university, but they will have to stay in school for an extra year and do 500 detention hours. Sounds fair enough. The two students follow Professor Yang out the room and watches him as he walks out into the hallway.

In relief and joy, Ki-joon and Hee-yeol give him a salute with smiles on their faces. Our boys are going to eventually become police officers like how they had wanted.

Epilogue:

Our two boys are completing their detention hours outside on campus when Yun-jung shows up. She gives both guys a hug and thanks them for saving her life. The two guys suddenly forget about their hours and goes out of their own ways to impress the girl, even going as far to give her a campus tour. Hahaha. They might be a little desperate for a girlfriend, but we all know that the bromance will always prevail in the end. Hehe.

My Thoughts:

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Okay.. first and foremost, WHY WAS THIS MOVIE SO DARK?!

Lol. I’m sorry. I just had to let that out. I’ll speak more about the plot and the movie overall later, but one of the very first things I noticed about this movie and that irked me was just how dark this movie was. I understand the majority of the movie took place at midnight so it was dark, but the movie definitely could have used a little bit more lighting. I could barely see anything which distracted and affected my watching of the movie.

But moving on, I would say that this movie wasn’t bad though I do think it definitely had a lot more potential to be better, funnier, and more entertaining. I could almost tell from the beginning what kind of movie it was going to be: funny, humorous, comical, wonky, but not in the ways that it wanted to be or aimed to be. There were times in the movie that I laughed or that had me shaking my head because of how embarrassed I was with our two leads, but the movie’s humor overall felt a little dry to me. At times I felt like it was trying harder to be funny than it actually was which made things a bit awkward. A movie is funny when it’s natural and when our cast isn’t trying. The movie was a little too ambitious which then made it not as funny as it could have been.

The movie was very direct, simple, and straight-forward. Two students at the police university take on a case on their own when police and investigation units are unable to do so. ‘Midnight Runners’ was easy to watch and I definitely think that that was thanks to our two leads Park Seo-joon and Kang Ha-neul. The movie followed your usual typical formula of protagonists saving kidnapped victims that at times it reminded me of Strong Woman Do Bong-soon (because of the kidnapping), Twenty (the coming of age movie that Kang Ha-neul acted in with Kim Woo Bin and Lee Junho), and even Rush Hour (must be the duo thing). The movie put in some funny jokes and comments and even curse words here and there, but ultimately played it safe and never really did anything unexpected.

The movie was fun to watch, but it’s not something that I would watch again. It was a good first watch, but nothing about it really stood out as well. I think I might be giving the movie more credit just because I’m extremely biased towards the two leads who I absolutely love and adore. Park Seo-joon and Kang Ha-neul’s bromance was definitely the highlight of this movie and I think they made a cute pair. Two students from two very different backgrounds who happened to meet at a police university ended up becoming good friends and saving the lives of so many abducted victims. It was so unexpected for them, but yet it turned out to be one of the best things that happened to them. Yay for bromance that extends beyond just going to clubs and approaching girls!

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Speaking of our two leads, this movie proved that both Park Seo-joon and Kang Ha-neul have potential for comedic roles and timing. But more so than playing characters that provide comedic relief, I would love to see them play more action-based heroes like they did in this movie. When they were both serious about saving the girls and planning their next move, they were able to showcase acting skills that we didn’t see earlier in the movie when they were being funny. Both guys were funny and entertaining, but the movie didn’t maximize on the comedic relief and humor as much as they should have so sometimes the humor felt a bit empty though it wanted to paint itself as funny. As with all other movies and dramas, I’m also curious as to what this movie would have been like had our two leads been played by different actors.

I still enjoyed the movie primarily because Park Seo-joon and Kang Ha-neul were great in it as their respective characters. They were so naive and clueless sometimes that these traits were what made them stand out and was what made the movie funny. Both actors are always great, but Kang Ha-neul surprises me every time with the types of characters he plays because he’s such a dork in real life it throws me off so much. It’s unfortunate that we probably won’t get to see them together again until a few years as Kang Ha-neul is currently fulfilling his military service. I’d love to see two of my favorite actors in another drama or movie together again. This pairing of these two actors was something that I totally wasn’t expecting, but was ultimately glad to see happen. It wouldn’t be too much of me to ask for more right? (Okay, but also imagine if Park Hyung-sik had played the role of Hee-yeol and acted with best friend Park Seo-joon in this movie instead? Now THAT would be something to watch).

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In the end, everyone got a happy ending and things ended rightfully as it should. As mentioned earlier, the movie played it safe and remained a consistent and predictable watch until the end. Our leads and supporting cast were charming and quirky in their own ways and that really made the movie shine. Though not a movie I would watch again even with the casting of Park Seo-joon and Kang Ha-neul, it was a good enough watch the first time around and will definitely quench my thirst for anything Kang Ha-neul(and Park Seo-joon) related while he’s in the army. Hopefully the movie has done the same for you too 🙂

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