Midnight Run, 1988.
Directed by Martin Brest.
Starring Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto, John Ashton, Dennis Farina and Joe Pantoliano.
Midnight Run arrives on Blu-ray in the US in a new Collector’s Edition from Shout! Factory that includes a new interview with Robert De Niro along with the interviews that were part of the Blu-ray released in the UK in 2015. A vintage “making of” featurette is also included. The disc features a new 2K scan of the film.
In the annals of great screenwriting, Midnight Run is an underrated classic. It’s one of those movies with a great setup and nearly flawless execution through acts two and three. The story twists and turns in unpredictable but satisfying ways, reversals of fortune happen at the right moments, and the ending isn’t a surprise, but it feels just right. Throw in a great cast and top-notch directing, and Midnight Run adds up to one of my favorite movies.
Watching it again for the first time in several years, it struck me that the opening has a Raiders of the Lost Ark vibe: We’re introduced to bounty hunter Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) as he grabs his latest bail jumper, only to be foiled by his nemesis, Marvin Dorfler (John Ashton), who snatches his prize away. There are shades of Indy versus Belloq here.
Walsh is then presented with the greatest assignment of his life: Find Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin), who was arrested for embezzling $15 million from mob boss Jimmy Serrano (Denis Farina), and get him to Los Angeles within five days in exchange for a $100,000 fee from bail bondsman Eddie Moscone (Joe Pantoliano). Like the Ark chased by Indiana Jones, The Duke changes hands several times during the course of the story, with FBI agent Alonzo Mosely (Yaphet Kotto) and Serrano’s henchmen also in pursuit.
Sure, the Raiders analogy isn’t perfect, and I have no idea if screenwriter George Gallo even thought of that movie’s opening, as well as its character relationships, when writing Midnight Run, but the comparison is a good example of how archetypal storytelling elements can work in any genre. In this case, Midnight Run is a comedic road trip film with a buddy movie element, not a rip-roaring adventure tale, but its characters are just as engaging and its plot is just as exciting.
This new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray from Shout! Factory, which is part of their new Shout Select line, features a new 2K scan of the film, along with a new interview with De Niro that’s unfortunately marred by Wally Wingert’s irritating narration. I realize Wingert is well-known as a voice-over and radio guy, but he’s just too over the top here. In addition, the interview lasts several minutes, but it’s padded out by so much film footage that it only features a few minutes of De Niro talking. On top of that, he has trouble remembering a lot of things, so it’s a dud of a clip.
However, this edition also features several interviews that were part of a Midnight Run Blu-ray released in the UK last year, and they more than make up for the De Niro fiasco. They include lengthy interviews with Grodin, Pantoliano, Ashton, Kotto, and Gallo, and all of them have great anecdotes about the making of the movie. Kotto’s interview is audio-only, but the rest of them were conducted in person. It’s a shame director Martin Brest wasn’t available for that or a commentary track, but what’s included here definitely makes this is a worthwhile purchase for fans of the film.
However, Brest does show up, along with other cast members, in the vintage “making of” featurette included here too. (It was the only bonus feature on the original DVD release.) It’s one of those pieces that were produced once upon a time to sell movies to theater owners, so it’s heavy on the fluff, but it’s still worth viewing. The theatrical trailer rounds out the disc.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★