Monday: Escape with their lives from New York.
Tuesday: Impersonate F.B.I. agents in Chicago.
Wednesday: Steal plane in New Mexico.
Thursday: Almost kill each other by accident.
Friday: Almost kill each other on purpose.
What happens when an ex-cop turned bounty hunter is sent to find an accountant who embezzled millions from the mob, and who’s now being hunted by mobsters as well as the FBI as he tries to get his fugitive from New York to L.A. before the accountant’s bail bond defaults?
Comedy gold, that’s what.
After a string of dramatic turns including the previous year’s The Untouchables, Robert De Niro goes totally against type as he shifts gears for this comedy-action fest. He plays Jack Walsh, a bounty hunter sent to retrieve federal fugitive Jonathan “the Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin) after he jumps bail. Mardukas has millions in mob money stashed somewhere, and Jimmy Serrano, the guy from whom he took it, wants that shit back. Meanwhile, the FBI’s got their own case building against Serrano, and they want Mardukas as a material witness. Walsh doesn’t give a damn about any of that, as he just wants to get the Duke back to L.A. and the bail bondsman who’s going to pay him $100,000 for the job.
Released on July 20th, 1988 – mere days after Bruce Willis’ breakout hit Die Hard – Midnight Run is basically “The Odd Couple on the lam,” as well as a bit of a salute to the classic Bob Hope/Bing Crosby “Road” pictures of the 1940s and early 50s. De Niro and Grodin play off each other to absolutely epic effect, their efforts supported by stellar performances from the likes of Yaphet Kotto as FBI Agent Alonzo Mosley, Dennis Farina as Jimmy Serrano, John Ashton as Walsh’s rival bounty hunter, Marvin Dorfler, and ever-reliable Joe Pantoliano as skeevy bail bondsman Eddie Moscone.
Director Martin Brest, who two years earlier had given us the first – and still the best – Beverly Hills Cop, manages to strike a pretty decent balance of action, humor and quiet character moments throughout the film, while Danny Elfman provides a rollicking musical score to wrap around the whole thing. It’s not a perfect movie, and there are a couple of places where the “guys who hate each other eventually become friends” trope starts to wear thin, but De Niro and Grodin’s chemistry is more than enough to elevate the material and cement Midnight Run as one of my all-time favorite “buddy flicks.”
Trivia: Until recently, I had no idea that there were three made-for-TV sequels in 1994, made as part of Universal’s “Action Pack” TV-movies. I’ve never seen them…and I’m not sure I want to. I mean, “Action Pack” gave us stuff like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and TekWar, but they also gave us Team Knight Rider and sequels to Smokey and the Bandit. So, you know…tread carefully.
There’s been talk of De Niro and Grodin teaming up for a proper sequel to the original film, but the last news I heard about this was a couple of years ago now. I’d be in line for it if such a project ever came to fruition.
Meanwhile, I think I’ll be spinning this one up tonight.
“See ya in the next life, Jack.”