Netflix brings back a true classic.
Midnight Run is a superior comic thriller, whose greatness rests squarely on the shoulders of Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin. Their completely different characters are so complementary as to make an otherwise mediocre plot seem great. I picked up tossed off lines like a beggar scrounging for crumbs:
Jonathan Mardukas (Grodin): “Jack, you're a grown man. You're in control of your own words.”
Jack Walsh (De Niro): “You're goddamn right I am. Now here come two words for you: Shut the f*** up.”
This kind of dialogue shows Duke as fussy and caring while Jack is rough, tough, and ultimately soft. Enlightened casting if I ever saw it—directing, too: Martin Brest.
Jack, a failed cop now a bounty hunter, escorts Jonathan “Duke” Mardukas (Grodin) to LA to collect a finder’s fee after Duke has stolen millions from crime boss Jimmy Serrano (Dennis Ferrina), only to give it away to charity and skip out on bail. The chemistry between De Niro and Grodin is exceptional, calling to mind the easy rapport of Newman and Redford, only that the differences between the former duo are more pronounced, allowing for more richness and variety.
Although the interaction of the principals makes for an entertaining chase, the other players are relegated to goon territory, with the exception of trench-coated Yaphet Kotto as Alonzo, exercising his chops for sarcasm while keeping his gravitas as boss cop. And I should mention Dennis Farina as Jimmy, born to play a tough.
Getting past the quips and easy feeling lies a theme of cooperation, so necessary for the two’s survival, and the kindness that comes from getting to know someone, a seeming enemy, as a “friend.” The friendship arc somehow evades cliché.
“You don't look like an FBI agent to me.” (Duke)
“Well, you don't look like a duke to me.” (Jack)
As I said, “easy rapport.”
Director: Martin Brest (Scent of a Woman)
Screenplay: George Gallo (Bad Boys)
Cast: Robert De Niro (Taxi Driver), Charles Grodin (The Heartbreak Kid)
Run Time: 2h 6m
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com