Midnight Run shows how a simple formula film can be more than just another road trip movie or action film. George Gallo populates his script with colorful memorable characters which are thoughtful and dimensional.
Jack Walsh (Robert DeNiro) is a bounty hunter working for a sleazy lying bondsman, Eddie (Joe Pantoliano). Walsh was not always a bounty hunter, he used to be a Chicago cop until mobster Jimmy Serrano (Dennis Farina) ran him out of Chicago. Eddie has a problem on his hands: He put up a sizeable bond for a white-collar criminal, Jonathan Mardukas (Charles Grodin) and that bond will be lost if Mardukas isn’t brought back to Los Angeles within five days. Mardukas, also known as “the Duke”, has embezzled a large chunk of money from the mobster Serrano. The FBI, led by Alonzo Mosley (Yaphet Kotto) is on the hunt for the Duke. Serrano is also hunting for the Duke and has sent two of his men to find him. The FBI wants the Duke to testify against Serrano and Serrano just wants the Duke dead. There is a second bounty hunter looking for the Duke, his name is Marvin (John Ashton). Marvin is a clumsy dim-witted bounty hunter. Walsh’s only goal is to find the Duke and bring him back to LA for the $100,000 bounty.
Walsh finds the Duke in New York and starts their journey back to LA. Walsh plans to open a coffee shop with the bounty that he will collect. It all sounds easy, but not so. The movie becomes a cross-country road trip film from here, with Walsh trying to get the Duke to LA and the Duke trying everything can do to escape. This odd coupling is ripe for hijinks. And all the while, they are both trying to outrun the mob, FBI, and Marvin.
The characters and the interaction between them are intricate and genuine. Action takes place on airplanes, trains, buses, cars, trains, and a few other vehicles. With all of this action, the story is not lost. Director, Martin Brest (Beverly Hills Cop), balances the movie perfectly. Just when the action is too intense, he throws in some humor. And when the action or humor gets to be too much, he stops and puts in a scene to develop character. Brest does a good job of moving between these three moods.
Robert DeNiro gives a great performance. His portrayal of Walsh is humorous, yet serious. And when he is funny, he is hilariously funny. He gets his laughs, not by going all out for them, but by letting his character unintentionally do funny things. Charles Grodin gives an equally great performance. On screen these two are the perfect odd couple. It is the chemistry between these two that make this movie such an entertaining watch. The casting director should be congratulated for casting such a perfect pair.
The large suporting cast is also wonderful. Dennis Farina looks as if he’s having a great time playing Serrano as a mean and often very scary mobster boss. Yaphet Kotto is also mean, scary and commanding with his performance. Joe Pantoliano is wild and his portrayal of the potty mouthed bail bondsman Eddie is awesome. The most memorable supporting cast would be Wendy Phillips as Jack Walsh’s ex-wife.
The music by Danny Elfman is worth mentioning. Instead of orchestrating the music for the film, the music is done by a small band. The music is jazzy when the action kicks in, but slow and moody when there is character development. The music, like all other Elfman scores, fits so well with the film that at times I didn’t notice it.
Midnight Run is an example a perfect, smart and funny action film with characters that are dimensional and likeable. Midnight Run is my most favorite movie. And after you see it, it just maybe yours too. Don’t miss this film.
“You two are the worst bounty hunters I have ever seen! You couldn’t even deliver a bottle of milk!” - the Duke