Much fanfare has arose from South Korea of recent with several thrillers proven to be more of a gem over a slam. Midnight FM continues this encouraging trend with superb acting prowess fronted by both the leads and the ensemble cast together with nail-biting tension created by Director Kim Sang-Man. Much as it entertains as a good thriller, it isn't quite complete with some questionable plot pieces that are likely to be undermined by all the exhilarating action going on.
A desperate struggle of a radio DJ to save her loved ones. Sun-young (Park Soo-Ae) is a popular radio DJ with a huge fan base for a movie-music program that is aired live at midnight. She is a perfectionist who has built a successful career for the past five years, but when her young daughter needs surgical operations overseas, the single-mom decides to quit. She prepares for her final show from song selections down to the smallest details.
During the show, she receives a call from a listener named Dong-soo (Yoo Ji-Tae). He tells her that she must follow his orders while she hosts her live radio show, or her family’s live will be at stake, and threatens that she can’t tell anyone. Without knowing what he wants or why this is happening to her, she continues her 2-hour radio program as things start to get worse.
Thrillers are intended to give their audience an overhaul of their senses by keeping them at the edge of their seats with a wide-eye look glued to the silver screen in anticipation (often in anxiety or subtle fear of the unknown) of what comes next.
Midnight FM does that and never too blatantly forceful.
This is achieved through a heightened amount of dramatic action championed by mainly both the male and female leads Park Soo-Ae (who won Best Actress at the 2010 Blue Dragon Film Awards for her performance in Midnight FM) and Yoo Ji-Tae (of Oldboy fame). The prominent of both is naturally Yoo Ji-Tae with his over-the-top craze-driven performance as a convincing psychopath that leaves us with questions to his true motives and his actual self. There is also a pleasantly adequate performance by the supporting cast that adds value to this production by creating a wonderful cast ensemble.
True essence of a thriller comes from not knowing too much, thus I'll skip further plot discussion.
There are film references to some of the Western classic hits, especially that of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. It is later used as a close reference to Dong-Soo's characterisation and the explanation to his transformation for the extreme. Symbolic physical references are also present, such as the shaving of his hair akin to Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver.
With that, a debate of morality and civilisation's judicial system ensues.
There's a subtle notion to the role of Sun-Young, the radio personality with an attractive husky voice, where it is a job that comes with certain social responsibilities. It may be just another job in her life (her heart actually yearns for a career of a television news anchor), but there are repercussions to everything she says to her faithful and random listeners on air.
Frequent flashes of the "on-air" sign in the studio somewhat signifies a "live" status whenever it is activated, her discussions on-air every night withholds an influential social power on par with that of a campaign speech made by a presidential electoral candidate. Everybody has to be held responsible for what he or she says, especially when your audience group is one that is potentially vast and infinite (somewhat reminds me of the powers of social media).
You never know whose ears your words will fall upon.
Midnight FM isn't the perfect thriller that some of us may come to think of it as with certain plot issues that may plague its plausibility, but rest assured that the rapidly paced exhilarating action shrouds that away from us most of the time. Well, at least it's more than adequate for the general audience, in my opinion that is.
Despite so, Yoo Ji-Tae's rendition of his psychopath character doesn't hold too much predictability with his unexpected transition between sudden outbursts of rage and serene moments of self-indulgence. Much like a ticking time-bomb that keeps you guessing when it will ever go off. His acts of violence are also without much hesitation, to further underline his ruthless nature that indicates his persistence and loyalty to whatever motives and beliefs he stands by beneath his lunatic demeanour.
If you've consumed all the blockbusters available at the cinemas and crave for more, Midnight FM is a better than average genre film that promises an unforgettable thrill for your boring weeknights.