"Midnight Run" is the greatest buddy action comedy in an era of great buddy action comedies

Chris Nashawaty at Esquire.com

Released on this day in 1988, Midnight Run takes the creaky, knee-jerk formula of pairing two mismatched stars with completely different acting styles and pushes it somewhere bizarre, unexpected, hilarious, and ultimately poignant…. Robert De Niro plays a hard-bitten bounty hunter hired to bring a neurotic Mob accountant who’s embezzled $15 million from the Chicago Mafia (Charles Grodin) from New York to L.A. before he can skip out on his bail bond. He has five days.

De Niro is, well, De Niro. His character sees this job as an easy score – a “midnight run” – that will bring in enough money for him to retire and get out of bounty hunting, a business he hates.

If “Midnight Run” were simply a great action/comedy, that would be enough. But it also has heart. And it’s got Joey Pantoliano; John Ashton (best known as the sergeant from Beverly Hills Cop, this time playing a sleazy rival bounty hunter), Yaphet Kotto, and Dennis Farina. That is a fantastic cast of macho character actors.

De Niro had never done a comedy before; the only roles he was known for at that time were like his character in “Taxi Driver.” He had previously tried to get the Tom Hanks role in “Big.”

But he and Grodin had chemistry – both skilled at improvisational acting, albeit one coming from drama and the other from comedy.

Nashawaty: “… for about five minutes in its middle act, Midnight Run becomes one of the best male weepies of all-time alongside The Shawshank Redemption and Field of Dreams…. “

Inspired by this review we rented “Bad Boys,” with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Very disappointing. It has the distinction for me as being the least enjoyable movie I ever sat through and watched to the end.

Mitch Wagner @MitchWagner