Shout! Factory has launched Shout Select to give the same loving attention and bonus features to films as Scream Factory does to horror. One of their first releases is Midnight Run which at first glance seemed underwhelming. Memories of seeing the film back in the summer of 1988 were rather vague. The film didn’t seem to have made much of an impact on me. Robert De Niro was hot off playing back to back evil with Satan in Angel Heart and The Untouchables‘ Al Capone. There was something too light about De Niro as a semi-comical bounty hunter nabbing Charles Grodin (The Great Muppet Caper) in a film from the director Beverly Hills Cop. Getting a chance to watch Midnight Run: Collector’s Edition nearly three decades later proved I was wrong.
Jack Walsh (De Niro) is a Los Angeles based bounty hunter nabbing crooks who forgot they were out on bail for Eddie Moscone (Matrix‘s Joe Pantoliano). He’s an ex-Chicago cop so he’s good at cuffing the bad guys. He does have an issue with fellow bounty hunter Marvin (Beverly Hills Cop‘s John Ashton) who likes to poach his captures. Turns out Eddie is about to go out of business since he stupidly put up bail for Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Grodin), an accountant who embezzled $15 million from a mobster (Get Shorty‘s Dennis Farina). Eddie fears the guy will get whacked before his court date which means he’s pretty much dead in the bail game. He ultimately offers Walsh a major payday to find and bring the Duke back to Los Angeles. Walsh gets offered a massive payday to turn him over to the mobster. Finally there’s the FBI led by Agent Alonzo Mosely (Alien‘s Yaphet Kotto) wanting Duke. Walsh can’t cooperate with them because there’s no payday if his nab gets taken in by anyone outside of the L.A. sheriff at the county jail. He does pick up a nice calling card from Mosely that makes his job a little easier.
Walsh flies out to New York City and quickly tracks down the Duke. Getting the man home turns out to be the serious complications. Turns out Duke has a major fear of flying so their simple first class trip to California is stopped by the pilot. This leads to a cross country trip by bus, cars, trains, vintage airplane and a dangerous river. Walsh has to use every trick to keep going so he can collect his money. He does learn that the Duke wasn’t that bad of a guy. He thought he was working as an accountant for a legitimate business. When he realized his predicament, the Duke swiped the millions and quietly donated them to various charities. While that’s an admirable story, Walsh won’t let go of his man no matter who comes after them.
Maybe time has changed the viewing experience of Midnight Run since no other buddies on the run flick has equaled this movie. De Niro’s recent spat of lame comedies such as Little Fockers has also made this one exceptional. His semi-youthful looks makes this seem like Travis Bickle’s brilliant new career. He’s able to be a bit comic and dramatic in the role without turning into a parody of his previous roles. Grodin is exceptional as the man full of phobias doing his best to stay alive and hope he can escape when it matters. This is better than his Beethoven movies. The foursome of Kotto, Farina, Pantoliano and Ashton putting the heat on them keeps the pace fast during the nearly two hour long running time. There’s enough action in here for an entire season of an HBO series. Midnight Run has everything you want from a cross country chase film.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer has the grainy look since a lot of the scenes appear to have been shot in low light on location. The audio is 5.1 DTS- HD Master Audio and the original 2.0 HD Master Audio. Both versions feature Danny Elfman’s “unique” score. Gone are his usual Circus tones replaced with a watered down Buddy Guy inspired Blues soundtrack. The movie has English subtitles.
Interview with Robert De Niro (8:51) has a fresh chat with the legend about his role. Most of this interview is clips since he’s notorious for not wanting to chew your ear off. De Niro wasn’t sure if it was a real comedy, but he agrees it is a comedy.
We’ve Got the Duke (12:24) is a more indepth chat with Charles Grodin. He beat out Robin Williams and Cher for the role. He talks about how he was allowed to improvise including the notorious sexy chicken scene. He talks about how they had to fly down to New Zealand for the river action since it was too cold in Arizona. He has a great talk about the time his father-in-law suggested selling popcorn in the concession stand.
Moscone Bail Bonds (14:19) gives us time with Joe Pantoliano. He discusses deciding he was going to be a character actor yet knowing he can also be a lead. He was pals with Martin Brest.
Hey Marvin! (17:23) touches base with John Ashton. Acting saved him from being a juvenile delinquent. He discusses how his role in Beverly Hills Cops expanded from the original script. They ad-libbed their stakeout dialogue. He points out that he read for the role, but it was with De Niro to see if they could click.
I’m Mosley! (7:36) is an audio interview with Yaphet Kotto. He points out that he was getting science fiction and action films, but none with comedy during that period. He loves comedy. He says Brest likes a lot of takes including ad-libs after they nail the script version.
Midnight Writer (24:43) lets screenwriter George Gallo admit he wrote Bad Boys before Midnight Run.
Vintage “Making Of” Featurette (7:26) is the classic electronic media kit from the crew shots has them bundled up on locations. Grodin sums it up as a chase.
Theatrical Trailer (1:12) has the buddy angle covered with all the traveling
Shout Select presents Midnight Run: Collector’s Edition. Directed by: Martin Brest. Screenplay by: George Gallo. Starring: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto, John Ashton, Dennis Farina & Joe Pantoliano. Running Time: 126 minutes. Rated: R. Released: August 23, 2016.
Joe Corey is the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.