Today! Because you didn’t know I was lying to you when you lied to me down by the river. So as far as you knew, you lied to me first –
Midnight Run (1988)
Directed by Martin Brest
Starring Robert De Niro (x7), Charles Grodin (x3), Dennis Farina (x3), Joe Pantoliano (x5), Yaphet Kotto, John Ashton (x2), Jack Kehoe (x3), Philip Baker Hall (x6), Lois Smith (x2), Tracey Walter (x2), Richard Foronjy, Wendy Phillips, Tom McCleister, Danielle DuClos
On some level, I didn’t know this movie had any awareness at all until that Rick and Morty episode where they drop Jerry off at the interplanetary day care for Jerrys, and they all watch Midnight Run with the DVD commentary (which I’ve never done, but sounds amazing). Like, you never hear anyone mention this movie, it wasn’t a particularly big hit in its day, sure it had a few minor award nominations (Best Comedy/Musical and Actor at the Globes, Top Ten film from the National Board of Review), but that’s about it. I secretly believed that maybe this was a minor wonder of a film that me and a handful of people watching daytime syndicated channels in the early ’90s knew about at all.
I also vaguely remember a story where John Ashton (tremendous here as rival bounty hunter Marvin Dorfler) got cast in…something because the filmmakers were big Midnight Run fans, but for the life of me I can’t remember the movie, or find this story on the internet. Gone Baby Gone, maybe? He’s got a ton of credits, but not much that I’ve seen, and would’ve likely brushed up against this tidbit. Anyone hear this story?
Any which way, Midnight Run bears virtually no resemblance to the poster above. They were clearly trying to sell this film in Germany (I think that’s Germany) as a De Niro-centric action cop picture, which I guess it is in spurts, but this movie is an all-out bounty hunter buddy comedy first and foremost. On paper it shouldn’t be much of anything – De Niro’s Jack has to bring Grodin’s Jonathan Mardukas across the country to a bail bondsman by the end of the week. Not a spectacularly inventive plot. But the terrifically funny script, highlighted by great performances across the board and the surprising chemistry of De Niro/Grodin make this one stand out, and withstand the test of time. If, you know, anyone actually watches this movie.
The internet contends strongly that this is a big cult classic, and who am I to argue with the internet? But who are the people gathering in chat rooms or wherever extolling the greatness of this Martin Brest gem? Brest, who only directed seven films ranging from the excellent (Beverly Hills Cop and this) to the okay (Scent of a Woman, Meet Joe Black I guess) to the Gigli (which ending his filmmaking career), has completely disappeared from the world of cinema, which seems harsh, with only that one Gigli to his credit (it is the 19th lowest rated movie on IMDB, as of this writing, though). Hell, his legendary short film Hot Dogs for Gauguin was entered into the National Film Registry! Can’t we forgive Martin Brest and throw him a comedy to helm? He’s not all that old! He directed Midnight Run, for Chrissakes! The internet also did not turn up literally anything he’s done since ’03, so if he’s within arm’s reach as you read this, let him know we all love him and forgive him for Gigli and want him back.
Beyond De Niro, Grodin, and Ashton, you also have terrific turns from Joe Pantoliano as the bail bondsman Eddie, Dennis Farina as mobster Jimmy Serrano – tied up in both of the main characters’ lives, new Six-Timer Philip Baker Hall as mob lawyer Sidney, and film MVP Yaphet Kotto, as the FBI man one step behind the entire cross-country chase, Alonzo Mosely.
This film also propels Bobby D to the Seven-Timers, following his roles in #360 Cape Fear, #31 Goodfellas, #82 Godfather Part II, #127 Brazil, #131 Jackie Brown, and #354 The Untouchables. The rare comedy lead from the great De Niro in the ’80s!