Buddy comedies seem so commonplace these days that it's easy for some of the truly outstanding ones to get lost in the shuffle. This was the case of "Midnight Run", a film I had only heard about recently with notable praise. Still, I didn't have much expectations for the film, figuring that this 80s comedy couldn't possibly hold up well after all these years. If I hadn't heard of it before, it couldn't be that great right? Well, I was dead wrong. This film played like gangbusters for me, even as I was initially resistant and cynical.
The plot of the film involves the transportation of an accountant Jonathan Mardukas (played by Charles Grondin) cross country from NY to LA, after he skips on his bail that was posted following embezzlement of a Chicago mob boss' money. Bounty hunter Jack Walsh (played by Robert DeNiro) is tasked with bringing him in to the bail bondsman by midnight five days later (hence the film's title), in return for a sizable payout. We quickly learn that the FBI is also on the case, hoping to use Mardukas as a witness for the mob's criminal activities. With the FBI and the mob chasing after Mardukas and Walsh, hijinks ensue.
As the plot unfolds, the film serves as a striking reminder of the consistent high quality of DeNiro's acting during the early part of his career. Even in a relatively small film like this, he still gives a rich performance. It's a far cry from his recent "paycheck" roles in films like "Meet the Fockers". What really makes this film lift off though, is the fantastic easy-going rapport between Grondin and DeNiro. Grondin plays the stuffy "straight man", while DeNiro is loose and temperamental. It sets up the perfect buddy comedy dynamic, with endlessly amusing arguments.
The supporting players are just as entertaining too. Every one of them (namely Dennis Farina, Yaphet Kotto, John Ashton and Joe Pantoliano) adds value to the film. It's a solid collaborative effort, adding to the overall great energy and tone of the film.
In a nutshell, this is just a really fun movie. There are lots of hilarious sight gags that bring to mind "The Blues Brothers" and "Plains, Trains & Automobiles", while the joyous music score further adds to the delight. It also has just enough heart to add some poignancy without being overly sentimental. The film perfectly captures one of those crazy roadtrips which seem like a nightmare in the moment, but in hindsight you just look back and laugh at the amazing adventure you had. Perhaps its 2 hr and 5 min running time feels a tad excessive, but I honestly wouldn't know what to cut out. This midnight run is never anything less than enjoyable.