Midnight Run (1988)

Rating: B-

Dir: Martin Brest
Star: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto, Dennis Farina

It’s difficult to conceive of Robert De Niro as an action hero, yet this is what he seems to be aiming at here, in his role as a bounty-hunter role, in which Bruce Willis would seem more at home. He is dispatched to bring back bail jumper Charles Grodin, and must face down both the Feds, led by Yaphet Kotto – if they bring his prey in, he gets no fee – and mob boss Dennis Farina, who would rather not see Grodin testify. This proceeds along the expected lines, with hunter and prey Grodin bickering ceaselessly on the road to mutual respect.

Falling somewhere between a road movie and a buddy-cop flick, it’s largely the characters that help pull the highly hackneyed plot into the upper echelons of either genre. De Niro and Grodin play off each other well, while Farina’s foul-mouthed mobster has a fabulous range of obscene threats, and gets to make them a lot, since it’s an even bet whether his minions or Kotto’s agents are more feeble. It’d be a decade before De Niro would make another movie as light, but both Analyse This and Meet the Parents owe a debt to this early example of his comedic touch.