Watching Midnight Run, you realize that it’s definitely a different movie for its time, with Robert DeNiro’s bounty hunting character consistently using payphones and asking for wire transfers, and eventually settling getting his acquired accomplice across various states through old-school transportation. But that’s the beauty part about a good 80’s comedy like this – times may change, but the fun remains the same.
Midnight Run was the follow-up project for director Martin Brest following his wildly successful Eddie Murphy vehicle Beverly Hills Cop, but I really like this film better, as it uses its star power wisely in a story that packs not only plenty of action, but also some laughs. The film follows Jack Walsh (DeNiro) as he hunts after Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin), a man who successfully bilked a mobster out of a cool $15 million. His journey to collecting the cash from his bail bondsman Eddie (Joe Pantoliano) runs into a number of snags, including opposition from a persistent FBI agent, Alonzo Mosely (Yaphet Kotto); a rival bounty hunter, Marvin Dorfler (John Ashton); and the mobster that “The Duke” ripped off, a very angry Jimmy Serrano (Dennis Farina).
What follows is a breezy, fun buddy comedy that works with its many scenarios, whether it’s “The Duke” scamming a local bar out of some cash (the “litmus configuration,” anyone?), Mosely’s anger over Walsh’s theft of his badge (“I’M MOSELY!”) or the various means of transport Walsh has to resort to in order to get “The Duke” anywhere.
The actors play their parts exceptionally well. DeNiro, normally an actor who’s at the top of his game with dramas like Heat and Raging Bull, has a knack for great comedy, as proven by the many situations he gets into. Grodin is every bit his foil, playing an everyman who reacts to his shenanigans in just the right way – and he even gets to have a little fun on his own behalf as well. The other actors, especially Farina and Kotto, have a ball with their roles as well. Perhaps the best insult of the movie comes from Farina threatening to bury a telephone in someone’s head. It’s all about the delivery…
Brest and screenwriter George Gallo keep the movie cruising along at just the right speed, and even if the ending feels a little too wrapped up for its own good, Midnight Run is a reminder that it’s all about the journey, and not necessarily about the destination. Besides, it’s such fun while it lasts, even if it does seem a little, ahem, “aged” compared to most contemporary comedies. But unlike most of them, at least it doesn’t suck.
Shout! Factory has once again done a bang-up job with the film’s presentation. Even though the film print does show hints of age, it’s cleaned up rather well most of the time, and translates to Blu-Ray with very few errors. The audio is top-notch as well, with great balance between the enjoyable film soundtrack and dialogue.
The team also did a splendid job with extras, even if some are a bit on the short side. For instance, the interview with Robert DeNiro barely lasts ten minutes, and there are only snippets of his comments sprinkled with weird narration. An interview with Charles Grodin fares much better, as he shares behind-the-scenes stories revolving around his role. Joe Pantoliano, John Ashton and George Gallo provide great insights as well, and an audio interview with Yaphet Kotto is also included. On top of that, the original theatrical trailer and an older “making of” featurette are also thrown in. No running commentary, but chances are you won’t really miss it that much. It’s just weird that Brest didn’t have much to say about the film, considering it’s one of his best.
No matter. Midnight Run still speaks volumes for itself, an underappreciated 80’s gem that thrives thanks to its key casting decisions, fast-moving comedic action, and swift direction. If you think you know what a good buddy comedy looks like, think again – Midnight Run has it in spades. And it’ll certainly have you thinking twice about whether or not DeNiro can hold his own in a comedic role. He can.