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Innocent couple goes on the lam after photographing police brutality
"Midnight Witness" (1993), a neo-noir based on police brutality, was written by Peter Foldy prior to the Rodney King incident. The latter allowed him to get the picture made and direct it. It's the kind of story in which an innocent man (Paul Johansson) is forced to go on the run, here accompanied by his live-in girl friend (Karen Moncrieff) just after she has announced that she's leaving him. Johansson has videotaped 4 or 5 policemen brutally beating up a minor drug dealer, the 4th such incident for their leader (Maxwell Caulfield). Caulfield wants to get the tape and frame them. Whom can they turn to when the police themselves stand against them?
Eventually they make their way to Las Vegas and Moncrieff's mother, played by Virginia Mayo, yes, the Virginia Mayo in her penultimate picture. This is after being picked up and tangling with a biker-type (Jan-Michael Vincent) and his pregnant girlfriend. Vincent's sister (Lenore Andriel) helps the fleeing couple out even though Johansson declines her lusty favors. Caulfield, a thoroughly bad and intimidating cop with martial-arts skills, has managed to pick up their trail. But his capacity to put out the fire is waning, as rookie cop Mark Pelligrino appears ready to 'fess up to the honest captain, Andy Romano.
There's plenty of action in this one and a good many twists. Certain of the couple's decisions seem and probably are questionable, but in each instance one can find at least some reason why they decided at they did.
The visuals in this story are not especially noir, but the way in which the police brutality is shown and introduced and the subsequent focus on Caulfield and a string of his abuses of power as he attempts to suppress the couple permanently help explain why this is in the neo-noir category.
American police brutality in 2015 is worse by an order of magnitude than in 1993, making this picture still relevant. The excellent neo-noir Q & A (1990) is another example of neo-noir movies starting to explore the dysfunctions of policing in depth or as a basis for an entire filmed story. One can go back to much earlier examples like "The Racket" (1951) and "Chinatown" (1974) in which police corruption is also present.
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