One of my favorite comedies is Martin Brest's 1988 film Midnight Run. I remember being very intrigued by this movie because it was Breast's follow up to the wildly successful Beverly Hills Cop and when the trailer arrived and it became clear that much like that film it was action comedy hybrid I was surprised because Robert De Niro was in the lead role. Back in 1988, the notion of De Niro in a comedy was much more startling then it is now, because this was well before he'd whored himself out in crap like Meet the Fockers and Analyze This (or That.) What seperates Run from the later comedies he made was in Midnight Run he wasn't trying to be funny. It's a slight but significant difference.
Midnight Run is easily the best comedy De Niro ever made; and a film worthy of being mentioned with his best work, which is heady praise considering the fine resumé he built up until he went off the rails in the mid-nineties. De Niro plays bounty hunter Jack Walsh who's on the trail of Jonathan "The Duke" Mardukas, a mafia accountant who's double crossed the mob and is on the run. Walsh locates "The Duke," played by the brilliant (and criminally under used) Charles Grodin and the film tells the story of their trip from New York to Los Angeles, where De Niro's bounty hunter needs to deliver "The Duke" to get his payout. Their journey is complicated by rival bounty hunters on their trail, the mob's effort to intercept the Duke and the F.B.I. who are embarrassed by the ease in which Walsh has located "The Duke."
A recent story at Deadline Hollywood about De Niro changing representation (which is a great move for him; he's been getting awful advice and making horrible choices for over a decade now) mentioned his future projects and I was pleased to see, among the productions, was a sequel to Midnight Run. Martin Brest, who built a solid reputation starting in the 1980's as the director of quality flicks
Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run, then Scent of a Woman and Meet Joe Black in the 90's has been put out to pasture since his last effort, Gigli tanked spectacularly in 2003. Since then, he's done nothing and seemingly has no projects being discussed with him attached. I'd love to see him step back behind the camera to helm a Midnight Run sequel. And I don't really think there's an argument that De Niro is in need of a comeback project even more than Brest, because he's made some truly embarrassing films recently after building an unprecedented resumé of spectacular work in the first half of his career. It's hard to believe that the actor who played the twitchy ticking timebomb Travis Bickle also played 'Fearless Leader' in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. It's difficult to fathom that he actor that channeled the terrifying rage of Jake La Motta also played a generic mafia don in two crappy Billy Crystal comedies that essentially amounted to him pissing on the virtuoso acting he did playing mobsters in Godfather Part II and Goodfellas. If he's willing to make Meet the Parents 3 (and sadly, he is,) it's no surprise that he's on board to re-visit Jack Walsh in a Midnight Run follow up. I think this is wise project for his new management to be putting together for him, and a promising sign for their new partnership. He's too good to be as bad as he's been. I'd really welcome a comeback, and I'd love to see Martin Brest as part of the project.
Run, Bobby, Run.