Midnight Run - Blu-ray Review

'De Niro's turn here is a far cry from the pantomimic style of his nineties and noughties comedies, and is all the better for it'.

Whilst turn-of-the-millenium efforts Analyze This and Meet The Parents are perhaps the most likely films to be cited when discussing Robert De Niro's forays into comedy, in truth the actor's most successful comic turns can be found far earlier in his career surrounded by many of the acclaimed dramatic performances upon which he made his name. Several of De Niro's earliest screen performances were in comedy films, although 1983's The King Of Comedy is perhaps the first example of the actor returning to comedy after making it big during the second half of the 1970s. For De Niro at his comic best, however, look no further than 1988's Midnight Run.

As down-on-his-luck bounty hunter Jack Walsh, De Niro delivers a gem of a performance by playing off his past dramatic roles, successfully developing Jack from a guy who only avoids getting his head blown off by sheer dumb luck during the opening moments into someone we genuinely feel has been dealt a bum hand by life. De Niro's turn here is a far cry from the pantomimic style of his nineties and noughties comedies, and is all the better for it. Perversely, this emerges as his best comic performance precisely because De Niro doesn't play it for laughs, instead crafting Jack as a character of several shades, most of which are light, but with a few darker hues interspersed.

De Niro is only one half of Midnight Run's comedy success however. Charles Grodin's understated turn as Jack's target, neurotic mob accountant Jonathan "The Duke" Mardukas, provides a wonderful foil for De Niro to play off, the two actors delightfully fostering one of the great buddy partnerships of the eighties. Much like Jack, Jonathan also starts off as seemingly simple but becomes much more, thanks in no small part to Grodin's authentic and infectious character performance.

Whilst the pairing of De Niro and Grodin is undoubtedly at the core of Midnight Run's success, the film offers plenty to enjoy elsewhere. The threads of the somewhat complex story are swiftly introduced within the opening twenty minutes, then allowed to interweave pleasingly over the course of the film. Director Martin Brest blends road movie, crime thriller and action caper brilliantly, whilst also ensuring that the plot satisfyingly treads the fine line between multifaceted and overcomplicated. The supporting turns, whilst never as memorable as those from the lead pair, are consistently solid, particularly from Yaphet Kotto as hard-nosed FBI agent Alonzo Mosely and Dennis Farina as Jimmy Serrano, a sleazy mob boss with an impressive line in office-equipment-related threats of violence.

Midnight Run isn't perfect: at two hours it feels too long for the story it tells; and a sequence focusing on Jack's estranged wife and daughter, whilst adding further emotional depth to him, feels thinly written and adds little. For much of its running time, however, Brest's buddy movie is consistently entertaining, driven by excellent performances and delivering a film gratifyingly placed somewhere between Lethal Weapon and Planes, Trains And Automobiles.

Midnight Run is released on UK Blu-ray on Monday 20th April 2015.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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