Throwback Thirty – Midnight Run (1988)

220px-midnight_run5_star_rating_system_4_stars1 Today has been a bad day, if I’m honest. Work sucks at the moment and, as it’s nearly been 2 weeks since the deadline for the job I really wanted, I’m assuming my recent application hasn’t come to anything. I mean I haven’t heard anything so I can still blindly cling to the small amount of hope that’s left. But it doesn’t look good. Still, there’ll be other jobs somewhere… I’m sure. I’ve just been tired and stressed today. A good night’s sleep will make everything seem better, right? Well, it can’t hurt. So I’ll try to wrap this up as quickly as possible. Which, to be honest, is probably a good thing. I watched Midnight Run for the first time ever yesterday and, stupidly, I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention to all of it. I mean I got the gist of it but I can’t say it really pulled me all the way in. So we’ll see what kind of sense we can make out of it. Incidentally, I’ve had the ‘Bobby DeNiro Song’ by comedians Adam and Joe in my head all day. I’m not complaining. It’s a great song. I could just have done with remembering more of the words…

Midnight Run is the story of a bounty hunter, Jack Walsh (Robert DeNiro) who goes after one huge payout by bringing in accountant Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin). The Duke stole $15 million from mob boss Jimmy Serrano before skipping his bail. This means the simple ‘midnight run’ that Walsh was promised becomes pretty complicated. It is not just the Los Angeles police that are after the Duke. The FBI are hoping to apprehend him so he can testify against Serrano whilst Serrano himself has sent goons to bring Mardukas in. Also, Mardukas turns out to be a trickier con man than Walsh initially gave him credit for and the pair find themselves getting into several sticky situations.

At the heart of this story is a simple but effective buddy movie. An ex-cop turned bounty hunter comes face-to-face with an embezzler. They are an unlikely duo who have great chemistry on-screen. The two lead actors are incredibly funny and their different styles work well together. Robert DeNiro proves himself to be a great comic actor here and is able to bring a sincerity to his hard-nosed ex-cop. Grobin spends most of the film looking extremely passive but there is a such a playful nature hidden underneath that its hard not to root for his Robin Hood-esque con man.

For me, watching in 2018, I think there is too much that bogs down the plot. There are endless distractions from the main story. We don’t need the FBI and mobsters following the pair so we certainly don’t need Jack’s rival bounty hunter to get involved. Though I wouldn’t say the film ever gets completely out-of-hand, it certainly does get a bit waylaid. The chemistry is so good between the main pair that I kind of wish this had been a Trains, Planes, and Automobiles kind of deal where we just watch the two of them try to get back to LA. The moments when they are improvising together and having fun are glorious to watch. It always feels like a huge shame to leave them behind.

I won’t pretend this is the best of the 1988 films I’ve had to watch so far but I think it still stands up. It’s a funny and well-made film. There is a good balance between humour and sincerity and there are no moments when it relies on cheap laughs. It is considered and builds on the area of mismatched comedy duo that were being rolled out throughout the 80s. What makes it work as well as it does is the central performances. Having seen DeNiro in some lame comedies it’s finally nice to see him do something worthy of his comic talents. I think I need to see this film again to really get into it but the fact that I want to is a sure sign I enjoyed it on some level.

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