REVIEW / ACTION COMEDY
MIDNIGHT RUNNERS (PG13)
109 minutes/Opens tomorrow/4/5 stars
The story: Jockish Gi Jun (Park Seo Jun) and geekish Hee Yeol (Kang Ha Neul) are fellow students and best friends at the police academy. They witness a young woman getting abducted and, having learnt that time is of the essence in such cases, decide to follow up on their own time - even when they run up against red tape and find they could be expelled.
It has been a while since such an entertaining buddy action flick came along.
What makes it so watchable is the chemistry between the two charming and likeable lead actors, Park (She Was Pretty, 2015) and Kang (Misaeng, 2014). They radiate an energy that is sunny and infectious and they definitely have a blast when they are together.
Asked how long they have been dating while promoting the movie on a variety show, Park gamely answers: "It's been about five months."
In Midnight Runners, they play opposites. Hee Yeol is a germophobic book-smart student; Gi Jun is a jock who tends to be more impulsive.
In response to an exam question on how to investigate a crime, Hee Yeol effortlessly jots down the model answer, while Gi Jun simply lists down qualities such as being passionate.
What unites them is a youthful passion for doing the right thing, even if that means going against the rules. They may joke around and insult each other, but they also have each other's backs when it matters.
The case here gives one pause as well. It unveils the horrific business of the forced harvesting of eggs from vulnerable young women to meet the demands of desperate couples who turn to fertility clinics.
Writer-director Jason Kim Joo Hwan manages to balance the dark crime with a generally lighter tone, as scrappy underdogs Gi Jun and Hee Yeol doggedly chase after the evil-doers and end up scolded, beaten and even strung up like two slabs of meat.
While Kim takes a jab or two at red tape and the blind following of orders, he is not totally dismissive of the police force. There is a nicely executed scene where Hee Yeol discovers that the self-defence moves he learnt in class are not useless after all.
Kudos to the director for deftly mixing comedy, action, crime and even morality drama in a satisfying movie that makes you want to stand up and cheer at the end.
Perhaps the best sign that the film works is that one would love to see Park and Kang crack more cases, and villainous skulls, together.