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Ben Nagy reviews ‘Midnight Runner’: Senioritis is contagious … and violent

The new kid in the neighborhood with a violent past struggles to fit in with everyone else in Midnight Runner, a movie that’s reminiscent of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, with a synthesizer-fueled soundtrack but a lot younger cast.

Ian (Ben Weinswig) had an incident six years ago that landed him in juvenile detention – his mom was battered to death by his father, who used a pair of brass knuckles to commit the crime. Ian was too late to save her when he decided to beat his dad’s head in with a baseball bat. After Ian did his time for patricide, he’s sent off to live with his aunt.

On his first day at school, Ian meets Terry, an awkward dude with glasses, who needs help with an exam; Kurdt, a big dude who tells Ian not to bust him and his pals for smoking outside the school; a number of Kurdt’s cohorts and Anna, who’s linked to Kurdt and his crew, but not that linked.

Terry and Ian hang out together and form a friendship. Terry, though, runs with Kurdt and his crowd for protection. Kurdt actually lives at the house of a corrupt cop named Wilson and takes care of the drug trade that Wilson oversees.

One night while hanging out, Ian and Terry deliver a car to an isolated location with an item in the car’s trunk that they were told not to open under any circumstance. They open it. There’s a dead body. Things go downhill.

Kurdt threatens Ian and they getting into a brawl over Anna that ends with Kurdt stabbing Ian and Ian turning Kurdt’s head into ground chuck with those brass knucks (as an aside, it seemed kind of weird for Ian to keep those as his instruments of vengeance when those presumably were the ones that killed his mom, but maybe it was a different pair).

Now the outsider Ian knows too much and that gets the attention of Wilson, who puts the resources of his hoodlum collective toward making things miserable for Ian and for Terry because of the whole guilt-by-association thing.

The movie moves along at a good clip (just an hour and 20 runtime) and down the line Ian acquires a motorcycle as he tries to stay alive. People try to take stands, violence begets more violence and there are not easy solutions. But the filmmakers don’t really dwell on the consequences of the conduct other than violence is contagious.

Some questions that are left unanswered: Are there no other cops in the town other than the crooked Wilson? If so, how is Anna not under investigation at the end of the movie? Just asking…

The movie makes pointed statements, intentional or not, about these teens’ family units or the absence thereof. The lack of authority and resultant decay shows the nuclear family in the town of Midnight Runner has gotten rusted out with a space the size of either Mom or Dad showing. There are very few adult characters who, other than Wilson, are largely absent. (He only shows up in about four scenes himself. There’s Ian’s aunt and a scene with a school guidance counselor. That’s about it.

The bottom line of Midnight Runner: Violence corrupts, even when you’re in high school, it spreads quickly and people never change.

Going to give this one three stars. Check it out on Amazon Prime.

Note: This is not to be confused with Midnight Runners, a South Korean film also known as Young Cop, that was released the same year that is the first result when you Google the f—er.

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