Movie review -- 'Midnight Run'

By CATHY BURKE, United Press InternationalCATHY BURKE, United Press International

Whatever Robert De Niro does on film always seems menacing: his ticks and quirks are so intense you feel he'll explode any second, and he leaves the audience breathless with anticipation.

That's why his teaming with equally intense comedic actor Charles Grodin makes such perfect sense for the buddy-comedy 'Midnight Run,' directed by Martin Brest.


De Niro and Grodin jive so completely -- De Niro's alternate scenes of silence and rage counterbalanced by Grodin's nerdy self-righteousness - the standard plot devices that pack this movie seem fresh and alive. After all, those crashes, chases and explosions aren't the center of the movie: Its hero and anti-heros and villains with comic proportions are. They hold this film together; they make it both funny and compelling.

We are pulled right into the plot of what amounts to a convoluted cross-country chase. De Niro plays Jack Walsh, an ex-cop who got run out of Chicago by a powerful mobster, and who finds himself playing bounty hunter to a seedy unscrupulous Los Angeles bailbondsman, played by Joe Pantoliano.


Pantoliano has an exceptionally difficult and important job for the cynical Walsh: bring back a Mob accountant who stole millions from his boss and then turned the money over to charity. And bring him back in five days or the half-million-dollar bail will be forfeited. Walsh, for a sizable fee, is hooked.

He quickly captures the accountant, Jonathan Mardukas, played by Grodin. But of course, the rest of the movie has to do with their cross-country trip by plane, train, bus, back-of-a-truck and foot to Los Angeles -- just one step ahead of the good and bad guys who also want to bring Mardukas back, either dead or alive, depending on the hunter.

Along the way, Walsh and Mardukas ward off the ever-present Mob associates -- a hilarious duo whose boylike antics bely their deadly aim; an FBI agent, Alonzo Mosley -- played by Yaphet Kotto with a cartoonish rage that fits perfectly his part as the patsy; and another bounty hunter, clever and ruthless, and on a pair of occasions, a savior to the fleeing pair.

And oh, yes, the Mob monster himself, who not only is a little displeased that his money was stolen, but also fears Mardukas will spill the beans about the don's illegal businesses. The gangster is played straight and venomous by Dennis Farina (the television star of the series 'Crime Story,' where he gets to play the good guy every week).


There are enough situations in this plot to fuel several movies, and it's to Brest's credit that he doesn't let things go totally crazy, just crazy enough to give the movie flair and dazzle. It has plenty of each.

Still, what makes 'Midnight Run' so remarkable are its principals, and the supporting cast that keep the audience titillated, laughing and excited for the film's entire 128 minute-running time. Every minute De Niro and Grodin are together seems totally out-of-whack, but so odd-ball that it finally seems natural for them to be together: each of the characters even begins to take on a few of the characteristics of his opposite. Still, if it were just De Niro and Grodin throughout the movie, 'Midnigth Run' would lack the texture the superb supporting cast provides.

'Midnigth Run' is a cross-country rollick of such pure adventure, with an intensity and seriousness so carefully balanced with humor, that it makes every other movie tale of cops and robbers and retribution seem mediocre.

This movie is rated R. Film contains strong language throughout.

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