Driving to a friend’s house after getting into a late night argument with her husband, Lara (Savina Gersak) makes the mistake of picking up a hitchhiker. At first, Justin McKay (Mark Hamill) seems like a nice guy but he quickly reveals himself to be a serial killer. Haunted by his terrible childhood and the abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother, Justin has decided to get revenge on the world by going on a killing spree. He’s even got a polaroid camera with him so that he can have a souvenir of every murder that he commits over the night. Holding Lara hostage, Justin forces her to drive him to his ultimate destination, the hospital where he was once the patient of Dr. Hardy (Robert Mitchum). Following behind Lara and her murderous passenger is Lara’s husband, Lawson (Michael Dudikoff). Lawson is a former military policeman turned civilian cop and has experience taking down the bad guys. But Lawson’s leg is also in a cast and not even he is prepared for how savage and dangerous clever Justin turns out to be.
What is Midnight Ride like? Think of The Hitcher, just without that film’s subtext of an unacknowledged attraction between the driver and the hitcher. Also replace Rutger Hauer giving a smooth, menacing, and seemingly indestructible performance with Mark Hamill sweating, bulging his eyes, and fidgeting throughout the entire film. Midnight Ride is a competent thriller and Michael Dudikoff is a good working class hero but the main reason to see Midnight Ride is to watch Mark Hamill chew the scenery and play a character who is so evil and destructive that not even Luke Skywalker would have risked going anywhere near him. Justin McKay has much more in common with The Joker than with Luke Skywalker. Justin is the type of killer who, after murdering a hotel clerk, steals her glass eye and wears it as a necklace. Hamill really throws himself into the role, savoring every crazy moment. Dudikoff is stolid and dependable while Hamill often seems like he might be trying to burn the entire movie to the ground. While Hamill chews up the scenery, Robert Mitchum barely seem to notice the scenery at all. Hamill gives a masterclass in overacting while Mitchum gives a masterclass in barely bothering to act at all. Mitchum was famous for saying that he didn’t give a damn and I can’t think of any film where he gave less of a damn than Midnight Ride. Dudikoff may be top-billed but this is a Hamill/Mitchum joint all the way.
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