When I took my vacation over the weekend, I was looking for a movie to watch at the hotel, and settled on a rather random one I rented off of Amazon Prime: The 1988 Robert De Niro film Midnight Run.
In all honesty, I had never heard of this film before. I feel like De Niro is most known for The Godfather Part II, Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Cape Fear, Meet the Parents, Deer Hunter, and Raging Bull. I’ve seen those, and their reputation (and his performances) are well-earned.
But it’s well-reviewed on Rottentomatoes, with critical consensus saying, “Enlivened by the antagonistic chemistry between Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin, Midnight Run is an uncommonly entertaining odd couple comedy.”
And that’s probably the oddest part about it. I didn’t realize at this point in his career De Niro was doing comedy films. To be sure, there’s plenty of action, plenty of smoking (I think smoking takes up 60 minutes of the runtime), and plenty of f-bombs being dropped in this, but it’s largely a goofy comedy movie.
Charles Grodin is such a contrast to De Niro. He’s almost too monotone, almost too deadpan. But also, if I’m starring opposite of Robert De Niro, I mostly just get the heck out of the way, right? Let him do his thing. But I think that’s why it works because Grodin is so understated as to be irritating, and you’re waiting for De Niro to smash his brains in.
De Niro is so cool. That’s my Midnight Run takeaway. He oozes a cool charisma that’s almost untouchable in film. Even in this film, where he’s playing a down-on-his-luck bounty hunter who is trying to bring Grodin’s character back to Los Angeles from New York and dealing with a fellow bounty hunter, the FBI, and a mafia boss, he still oozes that charisma.
There’s also something about late 1980s, early 1990s action films I enjoy a lot. Die Hard and The Fugitive come to mind as other examples (Joe Pantoliano is in Midnight Run and The Fugitive, albeit completely different characters). Perhaps it’s that aesthetic before CGI came to dominate action movies, and before the computer age changed action movies.
You’re still getting real explosions, real fun car chases and stunts, often by the actors themselves, and still a hint of that 1980s cheese. For example of cheese, Grodin yells at De Niro at one point, “You couldn’t even deliver a glass of milk!” There’s actually a few milk references in this film.
I genuinely found the goofiness between De Niro and Grodin to be funny, the action was fun, and it was a good way to spend two hours on Saturday night. I would say, maybe it could have been 20 minutes shorter, but I was also sleepy when I watched it, so maybe that’s why I felt like it was overly long.
For a movie I hadn’t heard of before, it sure was successful. As I mentioned, it was critically liked. It seemed to do well at the box office, making $81.6 million globally on a $35 million budget. It also spurred on three direct-to-TV sequels.
To be certain, it’s not even a top 15 De Niro film, but that’s not even a knock since De Niro has had so many great films. This is one of them, it’s just lower on that list.
In short, if you like the buddy-cop action movie genre, and I do, check this out.