Hello and welcome to a very special edition of Buried Credits we have dubbed “Star Wars Month”! For three weeks in January we will be exploring the films of the three main actors of the original Star Wars trilogy! Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits, continues this week with works featuring Mark Hamill.
Midnight Ride (1990)
The Cannon Group made a lot of movies in their day. From art house dramas to sexploitation and everything in between, it was a movie studio akin to a kid in a candy store, releasing motion pictures all across the field of different types and (sometimes) of varying quality. But it is their genre output that they’re mostly commonly associated with, boasting such diverse titles like The Company of Wolves (1984), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), and the classics Cyborg (1989) and Bloodsport (1988) – not to mention the American Ninja franchise and Death Wish sequels. No question; if you’re an action/horror buff, Cannon’s catalogue is like Mecca. So when wading through Mark Hamill’s filmography and I see a (kind of) slasher film starring our topic of discussion as the killer, produced by the almighty studio, I had to add it to the list – and I’m glad I did as it’s an absolute hoot!
Midnight Ride takes place on a blue-tinted foggy night when our main character Lara (Savina Gersak) is trying to leave her angry and controlling police officer husband Lawson (Michael Dudikoff). After she leaves him at a store not too far from their house, hubby is furious and rounds up a posse to retrieve her. Though – unbeknownst to him – she has already picked up a nice and slightly quirky hitchhiker (with a penchant for taking Polaroids of people) named Justin (Mark Hamill). But he’s not as nice as he initially seems, and it wont be so easy for Lawson to get Lara back, nor for Lara to get away from Justin!
The next hour or so is a wonderful chase as Lara – who just wants to be safe – tries to get away from Justin, as he obsesses over her and wants his doctor to “fix” her so that she’ll like him. Plus, he wants to control her, much like her emotionally abusive husband did (only he didn’t need a doctor). Midnight Ride is psychological thrill ride across the foggy night, full of shootouts, car chases, and explosions!
For the most part, this film is wonderful. However, I did have a big glaring problem with the story: Lawson – the easily angered and obviously abusive husband – ends up becoming a hero. The film starts off with him chasing his wife to force her to come back to him, but once he finds out that Justin has taken her hostage, the film seems to forget this and change his role to that of a caring knight in shining armor. It really irked me how that was they way they ended up treating his character. Not only because it’s poor writing and makes the viewer feel like they condone this kind of abusive behavior, but because they also had a great plot ruined: a woman running from an abusive husband who ends up running to a crazy killer, so either way she is screwed. This ends up not being the case when he turns into the hero trope.
Another little problems with Midnight Ride is the soundtrack. The music itself throughout the film was always fantastic, but as each track was vastly different from the next, the tone was all over the place as a result of the genre-switching. Acting wise, most people are either good to great, but Dudikoff who portrays our “hero” Lawson is horrible. Granted, the cheese element is fun, but it would have been a lot better if he could have acted on par with his co-stars.
Other than those things, Midnight Ride is wonderful! It’s fun and cheesy at times, terrifying at others, and has a great explosive cheesy ending. Gersak portrayed Lara incredibly well and realistically and I felt terrified for her the entire for the entire duration. Furthermore, Robert Mitchum (who had a small appearance as Justin’s doctor, Dr. Hardy) was phenomenal. Visually the film always had this really cool foggy and blue-tinted setting which gave it an abundance of really neat atmosphere. I also really loved how Justin’s character was written: he was a killer, but you could tell he had definite mental problems which caused him to do the things he did – and they were often in defence of himself or Lara, though a tad on the extreme side for simple self-defence.
And that brings us to the wonderful actor who portrayed Justin: Mark Hamill. Hamill knocks this role out of the park! He first enters as this goofy guy looking for a ride who likes to take photos. He has his moments of quirky personality traits that come off as a little weird, but nothing too unsettling until he kills for the first time. And even then, he plays the character so sympathetically that he never feels menacing, even though what he’s doing is horrific. Hamill’s performance is wonderful, sad, scary and constantly; an emotional rainbow which sees him switching accordingly and never missing a beat. By far one of my favorite performances of his that I’ve ever seen.
Verdict: Buried Treasure
Midnight Ride has moments that I didn’t care for, but overall it is an absolute hoot. Boasting wonderful cinematography, impressive performances, and plenty of twists and turns, it’s always entertaining. It’s a little cheesy at times, but who doesn’t like a few moments of cheese? Especially during the wonderful, occasionally over-the-top finale! I can’t imagine any action and horror aficionados not enjoying this overlooked gem.
Come back tomorrow when we finally get to see Mark Hamill on the right side of the law fighting mutants!