Midnight Run (1988)
Director: Martin Brest
Starring: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto, John Ashton, Dennis Farina & Joe Pantoliano
Released by: Shout Select
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
After embezzling millions from the mob to donate to charity, sensitive accountant Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin, Beethoven) skips bail and becomes a moving target for his former employers. When the financial opportunity of a lifetime arises, Midnight Run finds ex-cop turned bounty hunter Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro, Goodfellas) jumping to haul The Duke cross-country back to Los Angeles for a $100,000 payday. Pursued by both the FBI and the mob, Jack and Jonathan find themselves working together throughout their hilarious adventure to stay alive. Yaphet Kotto (The Running Man), John Ashton (Beverly Hills Cop), Dennis Farina (Get Shorty) and Joe Pantoliano (Memento) co-star.
A hilarious road trip that takes thrilling turns and action-packed shifts, Midnight Run boasts one of the decade’s most unexpectedly funny and brilliantly matched casting combinations with Hollywood legend Robert De Niro blending laughs with his valued tough-guy persona and the wildly underrated Charles Grodin’s subtle gentleness and dry demeanor both collectively earning the comedy its true payoff. Earning a living as a skilled bounty hunter, former Chicago cop Jack Walsh hopes to leave the business behind for good after securing and safely delivering white-collar criminal Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas for a handsome six-figures. Uncomfortable with his standing as an unbeknownst employee of the mafia, Jonathan embezzles $15 million from mob kingpin Jimmy Serrano (Farina) and nobly donates the funds to charity. Rightly fearing for his life while the FBI is determined to have The Duke testify against Serrano, Jack hightails it to New York to bring his bounty back west which proves easier said than done. Comically clashing from their introduction, Jack grows disgruntled with Jonathan by the second after the latter’s fear of flying derails their quick getaway to Los Angeles. Through trains, automobiles, grand theft auto and dwindling cash, the two polar opposites can’t catch a break as Serrano’s men, the feds and an opposing bounty hunter (Ashton) who continuously falls for Jack’s false kindness close in on them. From one misadventure to the next, Jonathan’s attempts to get to know his cold companion are typically met with knee-snappingly profane responses before an expected friendly bromance that will save their necks kicks in.
Boldly casting the lesser known Grodin over prominent funnyman Robin Williams, Producer/Director Martin Brest’s (Scent of a Woman) instincts wisely paid off as the improvisational spirit and inherent chemistry with co-star De Niro is what makes the film a comedy standout. Excellently juxtaposed with high-speed chases, intense shootouts and perfectly cast supporting turns from veteran character actors, Midnight Run continues Brest’s flawless handling of action and humor following the wild success of the original Beverly Hills Cop. A modest hit that would continue the further exploits of Jack Walsh with three TV movie sequels starring Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore) in the De Niro role, Midnight Run is a flawless romp bursting with hysterical energy and excellently crafted characters that annoy, enlighten and rescue one another, much to the endless enjoyment of backseat viewers along for one of the era’s most undervalued rides.
Boasting a new 2K scan from the interpositive, Shout Select presents Midnight Run with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Appearing strongly organic with natural grain firmly intact, skin tones are quite pleasing with admirable detail while, the textures of Jack’s leather jacket are well presented. Sunny rural exteriors are lush with black levels containing evidence of speckling that seeps its way into other various sequences. Commonly spotted in striped clothing or dimly lit moments, the aforementioned speckling may not be deal breaking yet, makes its presence known with varying degrees of intrusion. Thankfully free of any scratches or scuffs, Midnight Run makes a solidly definitive leap to domestic high-definition. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue, effects work and Composer Danny Elfman’s (Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Batman) excellent score arrive with sharp clarity and robust range. An equally pleasing optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included. Granted Collector’s Edition treatment, special features are headlined with a newly recorded Interview with Robert De Niro (8:51). Although brief and overly reliant on voiceover narration, De Niro speaks highly of working with Brest who he wishes would produce more features and praises Grodin’s comedic abilities with warm memories all around for the film. Meanwhile, We Got the Duke: An Interview with Actor Charles Gordin (12:24), Moscone Bail Bonds: An Interview with Actor Joe Pantoliano (14:19), Hey Marvin!: An Interview with Actor John Aston (17:23) and I’m Mosely!: An Audio Interview with Actor Yaphet Kotto (7:36) have all been ported over from Second Sight’s international release. Lastly, Midnight Writer: An Interview with Screenwriter George Gallo (24:43), a Vintage Making-Of Featurette (7:26), the Theatrical Trailer (1:12) and Reversible Cover Art round out the disc’s impressive supplemental offerings.
Ballooning into a bonafide cult favorite, Midnight Run is the vehicle that fully embraced De Niro’s comedic diversity while his superb chemistry with the understatedly hilarious Grodin makes the film a cross-country adventure classic. Making significant improvements over foreign releases, Shout Select’s 2K scan is top-tier with previously available but, nonetheless excellent bonus features ported over on top of a very special new De Niro interview capping this Collector’s Edition on a strong note. With a tough bounty hunter and a sensitive criminal as your co-passengers on this odyssey of thrills and laughter, Midnight Run is simply the best ride to catch!