Midnight Run (Martin Brest, 1988)

What's it about? Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) is a bounty hunter hired by a bail bondsman to bring in Jonathan ‘The Duke’ Mardukas (Charles Grodin), a blue collar criminal who has ill-advisedly stolen $15 million from Las Vegas mob boss Jimmy Serrano (Dennis Farina) and then skipped bail. Tracing Mardukas to a hideout in New York proves reasonably simple, but transporting him back to L.A. is more problematic due to Mardukas’ fear of flying. Hence, Jack is forced to take his captive on a frantic cross-country race against time, pursued by the FBI, the Mob and rival bounty hunter Marvin (John Ashton), whilst resisting the urge to kill the immensely irritating Duke himself.

Is it any good? One of the best action comedies of the 80s. Whoever dreamt up the casting of Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin together should take up matchmaking, such is the chemistry between the two actors as they bicker, fight, bond, then bicker again throughout the movie. The supporting cast is just as good. Ashton as the slobbish, belligerent Marvin trades blows and wisecracks with equal aplomb, Yaphet Kotto is marvellously deadpan as the perpetually outwitted and splendidly named FBI agent Alonzo Moseley, whilst Farina plays it menacingly straight as the villain of the piece, thereby keeping the tension up come the climax. And although the terrific cast and the foul-mouthed, sharp script keep the laughs coming thick and fast, its not at the expense of the plentiful action, with fights, gunplay and many exciting chases involving various planes, trains and automobiles. Plus it is worth noting that it is all considerably more credible than the wild excesses of the average Schwarzeneggar or Stallone 80s actioner. To top it all, the playful and distinctive country and blues soundtrack by Danny Elfman and featuring Ry Cooder adds to the fun and has certainly not dated the way many 80s soundtracks have.

Anything else I should know? Despite not being famed for his comedic talent, De Niro fancied a shot at a comedy role and after being turned down in favour of Tom Hanks for Big, took the role of Walsh instead. To date, it is his only really successful attempt at being consistently funny on film. And yes, I have seen Meet the Parents.

What does the Fonz think? Frankly, if you don't like Midnight Run, I have only two words for you: Shut the fuck up!

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