[box cover]

Midnight Run

Every so often a movie marketed with a flat, unfunny, and generally terrible trailer turns out to be pretty good after all. But even watching this pleasing 1988 comedy-adventure's trailer in retrospect, it's difficult to imagine that Midnight Run is anything other than limp. Perhaps this phenomena is the result of an egregious marketing miscue, but it's more likely that Midnight Run really should be as weak as its promotional materials (with tepid "witty" dialogue like:

Jon: I can't fly. I also suffer from acrophobia and claustrophobia.
Jack: I'll tell you what: if you don't cooperate, you're gonna suffer from fistophobia!

...does a movie deserve to be any good at all?). And yet, director Martin Brest just managed to pile up enough talent to tip the scales of quality away from George Gallo's anemic screenplay. Robert De Niro stars as Jack Walsh, an embittered cop-turned-bounty hunter whose next job promises big money and a chance to start a new life. His target? Accountant Jonathan Mardukas (Charles Grodin), on the run from a cranky mobster (Dennis Farina) after embezzling $15 million in dirty money and turning it over to charity. With less than five days to deliver Mardukas to a bail bondsman (Joe Pantoliano) and collect his $100,000, Walsh must drag "The Duke" from coast to coast, by plane, train, bus and car, under pursuit from gangsters, FBI (led by the great Yaphet Kotto), and a rival bounty hunter (John Ashton). Luckily for all involved, the performances are a good sight better than their dialogue. DeNiro — who, in those days, understood that comedy is funniest when played straight — is solid, but Grodin is excellent as The Duke, playing the part with patient reserve and giving his co-star an ideal antagonist to butt up against. While all of the so-called gag-lines wither in an instant, the charms of Midnight Run almost entirely lay in the well-directed scenes of verbal tug-of-war between De Niro and Grodin, who share an amiably adversarial chemistry. The stars manage to fashion from the formula two likable characters who, even at odds, earn empathy. In addition to the consistently fine Farina and Kotto, Joe Pantoliano is first-rate as a sleazy bail bondsman, and, just as with his two previous pictures, Beverly Hills Cop and Going in Style, Brest manages a success out of assembling talent and staying out of its way. The third star of Midnight Run is composer Danny Elfman, who keeps the movie rolling with a surprisingly mainstream, but nonetheless catchy, blues score. This Universal release is presented in a fair 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer (unlike the early pan-and-scan release) and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Extras include a seven-minute EPK and the aforementioned lackluster trailer. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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