A group of people in Egypt get arrested and jailed inside a police van during the Arab Spring of 2013. They include, among others, an AP reporter (Hany Adel), AP photographer (Mohamed El Sabaey), a female teenager (Mai El Ghaity), a male teenager (Ahmed Dash) along with his mother (Nelly Karim) and father (Tark Abdel Aziz). Inside the van, they suffer from heat exhaustion and the uncertainty of whether or not they will come out of their ordeal alive while protests take place around them. Someone died in a nearby police van jam-packed with prisoners.
Writer/director Mahomed Diab and co-writer Khaled Diab forgo a first act by jumping right into the round up of protestors into the police van. Setting the film almost entirely inside the van generates a sense of unending claustrophobia and intensity. You feel like you're stuck in there with the prisoners for 97 minutes some of which are indeed gripping and occasionally moving, i.e. when one of the prisoners who happens to be a nurse tends to a prisoner's wounds or when a police officer experiences a brief crisis of conscience when he tries to get the prisoners some water. For the most part, though, there's a sense of tedium that begins to build as they remain stuck in the van. There's not nearly enough levity to counterbalance the overwhelming intensity.
Unfortunately, Clash suffers from the same problems that Dunkirk and Detroit suffer from: it never gets inside the head of any of its characters. Not every film needs a first act, but this one wouldn't benefited from at least a little bit of character development instead of merely providing a rush of adrenaline. There's no protagonist or any provocative conversations between any of the characters. The filmmakers assume that you'll care about them as human beings, but that's a difficult task when you learn virtually nothing about them as human beings except for their basic need for survival. At least the running time of 1 hour and 37 minutes isn't long enough to cause the film to overstay its welcome like with Detroit.
Fresh after high school, Hee-yeol (Kang Ha-neul) and Joo-hee (Park Ha-seon) enroll in the Korean National Police Academy. Both of them couldn't be any different from one another: Hee-yeol is geeky and introverted while Joo-hee is a bumbling jock. Professor Yang (Sung Dong-il) teachers many essential lessons at the academy including the "critical hour" window of 7 hours which is how long it takes most kidnapped women to be killed. They also learn how to use martial arts to disarm criminals. One year-and-a-half later, after spending time at a night club around midnight, Hee-yeol and Joo-hee witness a group of men kidnapping a teenage girl. They risk their lives and well as expulsion from the Police Academy when they decide investigate the kidnapping on their own because the police are took busy to help.
To explain Midnight Runners's plot any further would ruins its twists and turns of which there are many, especially when it comes to the unusual, yet effective ways that Hee-yeol and Joo-hee find out the name of the kidnapped girl, where she works, why she was kidnapped, and where they can find her. Writer/director Kim Joo-hwan deftly combines comedy, mystery, suspense and action in a way that's smooth without being uneven or clunky. Everything from the lighting to the slick editing, pacing, sound design, and the choreography of the action stunts are all top-notch. There's not a single dull moment to be found, and you're always at the edge of your seat.
The most important element of a great buddy action/crime comedy is good chemistry between the leads. Fortunately, Hee-yeol and Joo-hee make an irresistibly entertaining team thanks to the convincing performances by Kang Ha-neul and Park Ha-seon. They play off of each other very well like Oscar and Felix from The Odd Couple. Joo-hwan's screenplay is both witty and clever without resorting to the lowest common denominator. It's even funnier and smarter than the shallow Baby Driver, and it helps that the characters and personalities of the leads are fleshed out while being grounded in realism. The film does get into dark territory while becoming bloodier and more intense, but the comic relief helps to lighten the mood every now and then. There are also a few surprisingly tender moments that tug at your heart strings without being cloying. At a running time of 1 hour and 49 minutes, Midnight Runners is an exhilarating, funny, and thrilling ride. It's one of the best action comedies since Lethal Weapon and Rush Hour.