Sunday, 11pm, ITV4
Younger filmgoers are used to Robert De Niro mugging for the cameras in the likes of Analyse This and Meet The Fockers. For those of us who grew up watching De Niro’s brilliant performances in the likes of The Godfather: Part II, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, the New Yorker’s choice of bog standard comedy roles has been depressing. But lest we forget, De Niro has a real talent for comedy, which he first demonstrated in Martin Scorsese’s underrated The King Of Comedy and this buddy road movie from the 1980s.
De Niro is Jack Walsh, a bounty hunter charged with bringing in Jonathan Mardukas (Charles Grodin), an accountant who’s embezzled millions of dollars from his boss. The trouble is Jonathan’s boss is a notorious mobster who unsurprisingly wants him dead. To make matters more complicated, Jack’s employer, bail bondsman Eddie, has hired another bounty hunter, Marvin (John Ashton), just in case he screws up on the job. Thus the scene is set, as the chain-smoking, ethically-challenged Jack attempts to bring in his fastidious, health-conscious and idealistic charge, while staying one step ahead of trouble.
The chemistry between De Niro and Grodin and some nice comic turns from the likes of Yaphet Kotto, as a put-upon FBI agent, keep this low-key comedy ticking along nicely, and showed that De Niro could play for laughs long before he resorted to satirising some of the better roles that first made him famous.
The story behind the film
De Niro (below) wanted to try something different, having just completed The Untouchables for Brian De Palma, in which he played Al Capone, and was keen to have a go at a comedy. Midnight Run received mixed reviews at the time – many critics felt that the buddy genre had been done to death, with the likes of 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon already appearing in the years previous to its release.
Nevertheless, the film is now regarded as a minor comedy classic and there are plans in the pipeline for a sequel, which could see De Niro and Grodin reprising their original roles. Tim Fanning