The Odd Couple are Bountiful
To be honest buddy movies tend to work on a formula and as such the majority of them are dull and predictable but "Midnight Run" takes that formula and turns it into a seriously entertaining movie. It delivers drama, action and comedy in equal, bountiful measures but at the same time it builds the human side of the movie, the odd relationship between bounty hunter and bounty and it is that focus which makes "Midnight Run" one of the better buddy movies.
Bounty hunter Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro - Taxi Driver) wants out of the business and when his boss Eddie Moscone (Joe Pantoliano - Bound) offers him $100,000 to find Jonathan 'The Duke' Mardukas (Charles Grodin - Dave) and bring him back to LA it seems like this could be Jack's final job. There is but one problem, Jack is not the only one keen to get their hands on 'The Duke' as the FBI are desperate to get him, Marvin (John Ashton) a rival Bounty Hunter also wants him and the Mafia, who he stole millions of dollars from, also want him dead or alive.
To be honest the actual storyline to "Midnight Run" is really quite ordinary and it takes no time at all to get to the point where Jack and Jonathan are together trying to get back to LA. Even the added elements such as having the Mafia, FBI and another Bounty Hunter all on their tail doesn't really make it any more remarkable or unique. But even so, this ordinary storyline works in a sort of road trip style as one problem leads to another and a change of transport so we go from planes, to trains to automobiles delivering plenty of fun along the way.
The fun is, compared to many a buddy movie, surprisingly subtle. Yes Robert De Niro does a lot of face pulling and there are a few scenes which border on the comically, contrived but it is minor things which make you laugh rather than big set piece gags. So when Jack handcuffs Jonathan in a tiny toilet cubicle it's sort of amusing as is FBI Agent Alonzo Mosely's constant cigarette stealing from the other bounty hunter Marvin. They are just a couple of amusing moments in a movie which is littered with amusing moments rather than all out jokes.
Where though "Midnight Run" stands out is in the odd couple of Jack and Jonathan as they are not just 2 dimensional stereotypes who antagonise each other. They have a shared look at life, Jack maybe a scruffy bounty hunter but he has strong enough morals that he quit the police force instead of going on a mob bosses payroll and Jonathan may have been an accountant for a Mafia boss, he may have stole millions from his boss, but he donated most of it to charity. It is in the way that these two characters have this upright side, a strong moral belief helps to differentiate them from the common stereotypes and makes the way their friendship develop far more interesting and fun.
As such the pairing of Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin as Jack Walsh and Jonathan 'The Duke' Mardukas respectively is brilliant. De Niro is one of the few great actors who can deliver a varied character without it becoming bitty but he does this as bounty hunter Jack Walsh. One minute Jack is a grizzled ex cop, next he's a bit of a wise guy, next he's a pain in the butt and the list goes on yet all these elements merge brilliantly into the one character thanks to De Niro's skill as an actor. Grodin is easily as good as 'The Duke' being a right royal pain in the butt with his constant talking, questioning and supposed phobias. Together De Niro and Grodin work so well that this antagonistic odd couple are one of cinema's best.
Aside from Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin, there are some comically entertaining supporting performances most notably from Joe Pantoliano as Jack's boss Eddie Moscone and Yaphet Kotto as FBI Agent Alonzo Mosely.
What this all boils down to is that "Midnight Run" is one of the best buddy movies which combines itself with a road trip set up. It's not the storyline which makes it so good, or all the comical set pieces but the 2 central characters which have more depth than you would expect. And as such Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin as Jack Walsh and Jonathan 'The Duke' Mardukas work brilliantly together making "Midnight Run" so much more than just another buddy movie.