|'Only when the director ups the ante with action set pieces (car vs helicopter) is Grodin forced to go outside of his near-comatose comfort zone.'|
Much-referenced when talking about shallower contemporary films such as The Bounty Hunter, Midnight Run may have once held the high watermark of the miss-matched buddy comedy, but surely has since been surpassed by a selection of better, funnier films. Sure, Martin Brest's 1988 Comedy-Thriller has its moments, but is it up there with The Long Kiss Goodnight or Lethal Weapons 2, 3 and 4, all of which came after it?
One-liners in George Gallo's script do hit their marks on several occasions. A running gag about a pair of sunglasses culminates with Robert De Niro describing the excellent Yaphet Kotto as 'agent Foster Grant', which is smile raising but hardly likely to see the screenwriter at a comedy award evening any time soon.
Meanwhile, the relationship between bounty hunter Jack Walsh (De Niro) and his target Jonathan Mardukas (Charles Grodin) remains fairly stilted. De Niro goes for his role with bravado and outlandish physical acting but Grodin underplays so much he gives the relationship a very odd dynamic. Far from being a man panicking about his possible assassination at the hands of the mob, or imprisonment by Walsh and Kotto's FBI agent, he seems to be a man out for a gentle holiday. Only when Brest ups the ante with action set pieces (car vs helicopter) is Grodin forced to go outside of his near-comatose comfort zone. Others have commented that this is one of the film's strengths but, to me, there's not enough fun in the duality between the two leads.
Secondary to this is the real lack of concrete antagonist. Kotto is far too fun, whilst Dennis Farina's mob boss stays too distant for too long and several underlings rotate with too much frequency.
It results in a film that is fun, but only in a muted sort of way. Midnight Run also spreads the positives it does have too thinly, resulting in a vastly inflated two hour-plus runtime. It's a good 1980s Thriller but the high watermark for buddy comedies? Please report to Riggs and Murtaugh's office.
Midnight Run was showing on Sky Go.