9) Midnight Run, 1988
I was working as an intern right out of college at WRTV-6 Indianapolis, when someone whom I’ll never remember at this point gave me two promotional tickets to see this movie. I thought, Midnight Run, what the hell is this about? But it was two free tickets, I was broke, so I asked my then girlfriend if she wanted to go. What happened over the next two hours and seven minutes was pure comical magic.
Looking back, I find this hard to believe, but this was the first movie I had ever seen Robert DeNiro star in. I remember telling a good friend of mine how great a performace that Robert DeNiro guy gave. He, being a cinephile, looked at me both ironically and sarcastically and said, ” If you thought he was good in that, you might want to check out his body of work.” Which I did. Which we’ll get to later on in this last, believe me.
What made this movie so great was the chemistry between DeNiro’s bounty hunter, Jack Walsh and Grodin’s mob accountant Johnathan “The Duke” Mardukas. The writing is excellent. The dialogue between these two borders on Seinfeldian, but with more “f**ks.” And the entire cast is spot on. Yaphet Kotto as an incompetent FBI agent, the great Joey Pantoliano as a hustling bail bondsman, a post-Beverly Hills Cop John Ashton as a rival bounty hunter; Dennis Farina as a Chicago mob boss, and Philip Baker Hall as his consigliere; all performances are on point and are hilarious.
Even the actresses who play DeNiro’s ex-wife and daughter are good, no matter that they’re only onscreen for one scene.
With the exception of maybe Meet The Parents, I find that the best comedy is not what passes for comedy today, i.e. shock value, scatalogical references, etc. Not to say that kind of humor can’t be funny, a la Bridesmaids or maybe Horrible Bosses. But the funniest stuff happens when people just simply talk to each other, when they react to each other, the patois of the language they use with each other. Referencing Do The Right Thing, my #10 pick, anyone who’s seen that film must agree that the funniest scenes are between the three guys just sitting on the street corner, talking sh*t (it doesn’t hurt that Robin Harris is one of the three guys). Same here; although the action is exciting and the plot keeps you engaged–will Jack get the Duke to L.A. before midnight to collect the bounty, will Marvin Dorfler grab the Duke from Jack and collect the bounty for himself, or will Serrano wack all of them?–even with all that to keep you interested, it’s the dialogue, the writing, the relationship between Jack and the Duke that make the film totally worth seeing.