Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Midnight Run *** 1/2 (1988)

In 1988 the "buddy comedy" took a cerebral turn with Martin Brest's Midnight Run.  The unlikely pairing of Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin, provide an amusing study of contrasts in the tension between their acting styles, screen personas, and character motivations.

De Niro (Jack Walsh) plays a bounty hunter who must contend with sleazy colleagues, especially the rat like bottom feeder Marvin (John Ashton). In a lucky break, Jack apprehends the highly prized fugitive Jonathan Mardukas (Charles Grodin), an accountant who embezzled millions from mobsters and gave it all to charity. Now he's got Feds, mobsters, and bounty hunters on his trail.

So we get a version of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles in the guise of a chase film.  De Niro almost never shuts up, while Grodin speaks in simple Zen like dialogue, much like Terence Stamp in The Hit.  Prone to anger issues, Jack frequently goes into profanity fueled rages, prompting Jack to observe "You have two emotions - silence and rage." Jonathan's philosophy of living proves helpful for Jack in overcoming some personal pain. As a white collar Robin Hood, who stole from mobsters to give to the poor, Grodin shows a yuppie can have a conscience.

Philosophical issues aside, Midnight Run works as a first rate action film with an amazing supporting cast including Yaphet Kotto, Dennis Farina, Joe Pantoliano, and Phillip Baker Hill as tough talking cops and robbers.  But the presence of Grodin adds a subversive element; a voice of quiet outrage intruding upon the cinematic universe of the wiseguys.

Midnight Run, directed by Martin Brest transcends the stereotypical buddy comedy with well shot sequences, smart plot movement, and some witty satire.

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