Jun 30 2010

Midnight Run

Comedy was one of my favorite genres growing up, and alongside action films, this constituted a great portion of my viewing.  I love a good comedy film, but once again I’ll repeat, I love a good comedy film.  I feel like only two or three of the comedies per year really pan out for me, but for a long time I loved going back to older comedies, finding it easy to appreciate them despite their “datedness” that I’ve heard complaints of from others.  Unfortunately, when it comes to the selection at your local Blockbuster, I feel like I’ve literally run through all the good comedies.  In fact, I’ve run through so many comedies that even the films I’ve seen recommended in various places that have shot to the top of my Blockbuster queue are starting to bore me.  Such was not the case with the most recent of these selections, Midnight Run, starring Robert DeNiro and the highly underrated straight man Charles Grodin.

Midnight Run is not an obscure movie, but its starting to get old enough that most audiences may not have heard of it.  And yet, there’s beginning to be some interest in a sequel to the film in the past few months.  Because I enjoy Charles Grodin in everything I’ve seen him in (you may know him from Beethoven, Dave, or So I Married an Axe Murderer), and it’s hard to miss with DeNiro, I decided to check it out.  The plot is very simple, it’s a road buddy movie in which DeNiro plays Jack Walsh, a bounty hunter hired to track down Charles Grodin’s white collar criminal and bring him across the country.  Shennanigans ensue.  Not only is the setup elegantly simple, but the film does a fantastic job of creating big stakes and lots of conflict.  After acquiring Grodin, DeNiro’s character has not one, not two, not three, but four different groups trying to track him down and get Grodin for their own very different desires and needs.  Complex character motivations from both DeNiro and Grodin’s characters really push them against each other nicely and create interesting dynamics alongside the different groups who are after them.

But the real charm of this film is the chemistry between the two leads.  The dynamic between the hard-ass Robert DeNiro and the overly well balanced and put-together Charles Grodin is just, to put it simply, entertaining.  Robert DeNiro does his job comedically but I think it’s Charles Grodin that really makes this pairing shine.  He usually is relegated to more supportive roles, but here he has a whole movie with which to pester his straight man.  And which really is the straight man?  Charles Grodin normally takes that role but here he has all the good lines.  There’s something about his ability with facial expressions that can get laughs on that alone, they’re not silly or over the top, but they manage to express a world of disapproval with just his eyes and a few wrinkles in his face.  A scene in which he imitates a government official is a particular highlight as he brings his stern sense of comedy forth.

This is a chase movie in every sense of the word and they find a lot to do.  At 130 minutes I was worried that the jig would wear out its welcome a little early, but, aside from the usual bits of ADD on my part (it seems to be getting bad of late) I had no problem sitting down and taking in the full duration of the film.  There’s plenty of twists and turns (not shocking, but logical and dynamic) to keep the plot going and it comes to a relatively climactic conclusion that keeps the focus on the characters.  It should be said that this is more than just a comedy, it’s also a well executed thriller as well.  Props also go to the supporting players, particularly Joe Pantoliano, who I always enjoy seeing, and Dennis Farina, who curses funnier than, well, anyone.

Those just looking for a fun entertaining night of movie watching tend to go straight for the new release wall, thinking that watching older films can be a chore.  That’s not the case even remotely with this film, I had a really good time watching it and anyone who appreciates a good comedy with some great acting and good character chemistry will too.  Check it out if you can find it.

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