Although Director Martin Brest, whose big claim to fame is Beverly Hills Cop (1984), never really manages to do justice to their talents, one would be hard-pressed not to enjoy the performances of Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin, strongly supported by the smaller roles, particularly Yaphet Kotto as an FBI agent and John Ashton as a slightly off the mark bounty hunter.
But it is Grodin and De Niro’s film. Grodin manages to be an extremely funny straight character to De Niro’s serious funny character (an inventive construction of characters that works really well).
Many of the comedy setups and visual gags are really inventive, and the serious moments – that develop almost unwittingly out of potentially funny situations – are remarkably handled. The best example being De Niro’s meeting with his ex-wife and the daughter he has not seen in nine years.
Director Martin Brest is working in familiar territory (cops, drug dealers, etc) and should know when to cut, but he continually pushes scenes and gags one step too far.
The sequence with police cars and FBI chopper pursuing De Niro and Grodin in Arizona looks like a direct steal from Sugarland Express (1974) and the obligatory multi-car smashes are just that – obligatory and unnecessary.
Much of the action is well-staged and with a number of surprises; the film does not need the padding of all too familiar sights.
The biggest worry, however, is the script by George Gallo. He, like Brest, falls into the trap of overkill.
Again, much of the dialogue is clever and amusing (particularly the ongoing conversations between De Niro and Grodin about De Niro’s bad habits) but Gallo is not content to work on that aspect alone.
Perhaps he cannot be entirely to blame when it appears a prerequisite of contemporary Hollywood scripts that everybody abuse and swear at each other continually.
De Niro’s swearing is in itself a joke early on, but it’s a sorry state when writers feel that constant swearing is the only way to express a multitude of feelings. Surely we can’t be that bereft of ideas.
Midnight Run then could be summed up as a fucking good comedy/action/thriller pushed a bit fucking far by the fucking director.
Robert De Niro
Philip Baker Hall