Midnight Run (1988)

mrun1Midnight Run was very popular at my home back in the late ‘eighties when it surfaced on VHS rental.Its a great, very funny road movie, with much of its humour derived from its many f-bombs scattered throughout in a way you just never saw on broadcast television, where most films aired in family-friendly, watered down tv-versions. It was the beauty of video rentals back then; other than going to the cinema, it was the only way of properly experiencing films (pan and scan notwithstanding, but of course, none of us had widescreen televisions back then). Yes you could see violent films, and gory films, that would never surface on television back then, but you could also hear salty language that Auntie Beeb wouldn’t dream of assaulting the innocent Brit masses with, and Midnight Run has so many f-bombs. There was an almost guilty, knowing pleasure in hearing all those profanities- and particularly so in such an otherwise warm, pleasant comedy. The film is a deft, charming road movie and character piece with a warmth and emotional core that still rewards decades later. Must say I’m relieved at that. There’s nothing worse than re-watching a film after many years and discovering that its just not as great as I remembered. I hadn’t seen Midnight Run in ages until this Blu-ray release from Second Sight here in the UK, and there’s always some trepidation…. but yeah, its great. It still holds up. The cast is great (perfect performances throughout) the script is sharp, the pacing perfect and the jokes still funny. Its been nigh on 25 years since those heady VHS rental days but its still holds up as well as it ever did.

True, the Blu-ray itself may not reach the heady heights of quality that an Arrow release might, but it looks much better than the VHS and later DVD copies did. Maybe the typically ‘eighties film-stock and soft-focus photography don’t help much, but it looks fine. Sometimes the quality of the film shines above all and such is the case with this.The extras are no slouch, either.

mrun2I may be being somewhat unfair to Robert De Niro, but I have always felt that Midnight Run was pretty much his last great movie. Prior to it, he was known as a magnificent dramatic actor, bringing such an intensity and perfection to every role, and Midnight Run was a big departure for him at the time. I guess it was an indication of where his career would be going, as he chose more mainstream parts. Before, he took roles that could only have been delivered by him; afterwards he turned up in roles that most any actor in Hollywood could have taken. Most everything he did (okay, there’s the odd exception) seemed a pale shadow of the distant glories of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Godfather 2… maybe there’s an argument that films in general were a pale shadow too, De Niro’s artistic wane reflective of the roles within them, I don’t know. Anyway, the fire was apparently gone (there’s an argument that its really about age and De Niro’s fire/enthusiasm for extreme roles ebbed as he matured) and the one-time superstar acting genius seemed to become just another jobbing actor hustling for the bucks. Is there anything really wrong with that anyway? I don’t know. But yeah, always felt this was his last really great movie- its a foolish comment considering some of the films that would yet follow, but anyway, I always felt that way.

2 thoughts on “Midnight Run (1988)

  1. Matthew McKinnon

    I need to pick this up – haven’t seen it properly since 1989.

    Back then I’d just spent a couple of years tracking down all DeNiro’s famous films from the 70s. When my friends and I sat down to watch this, I though to myself, “wow, DeNiro looks old now”.
    But I saw a bit of Midnight Run on TV a couple of years ago, and it struck me: “wow, DeNiro looks really young in this”!

    I think a lot of his choices of roles in the late 80s came down to money: he needed cash to fund his TriBeCa property investments. Hence, dross movies.

    (Though I remember a really good little Vietnam Vet drama called Jackknife.)

  2. This is one I keep meaning to get round to when it turns up on TV, but it turns up so often…

    Funnily enough, I was just thinking about pan & scan last night — I recorded a film on TV that I knew was 2.35:1 originally, and the broadcast was 4:3. Deleted it outright. It seems ridiculous now that we ever endured it, and yet it persisted well into the DVD era in the US.

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