The Netflix Gritty Crime Comedy Is An ’80s Classic New Generations Need To See

By Robert Scucci | Published

1988’s Midnight Run is currently streaming on Netflix, and this action comedy is a must-see for any fan of the classic “odd couple” story. A critical and commercial success, this Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin starring film was a refreshing change in pace and countenance for De Niro, who was most well-known for flexing his dramatic muscles at this point in his career.

Though we’ve become familiar with the Meet the Parents star lightening things up in recent decades, Midnight Run was a pleasant surprise at the time of its release, and proved that De Niro could bring on the laughs in the appropriate context.

Robert De Niro Flexes His Comedic Chops In Midnight Run

Midnight Run has all the beats of your typical mob-based action thriller, but subverts your expecations with its comical delivery.

The film is centered on De Niro’s Jack Walsh, who is a retired police officer turned bounty hunter. Walsh is tasked with locating Charles Grodin’s Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas, who is on the run after making bail and embezzling $15 from Chicago mob boss Jimmy Serrano. Given five days to complete the job, Walsh assures Eddie Moscone, a bail bondsman who works with Serrano, that capturing Mardukas is an easy job, or a “midnight run,” and requests $100,000 for his services.

De Niro And Charles Grodin Star In Midnight Run

Matters become hilariously complicated in Midnight Run when Walsh is approached by FBI special agent Alonzo Mosely, who needs Mardukas to testify against Serrano, but Walsh has other things in mind. Walsh doesn’t cooperate with the FBI agent, but rather steals his identification so he can facilitate his continent-traversing journey, and make good on his deal with Serrano. But this isn’t the last we hear from the FBI, as Walsh ends up taking a phone call that is traced by the agency, which draws attention to his activities.

Once Midnight Run’s source of tension is established, Moscone sends a rival bounty hunter named Marvin Dorfler after Walsh and Mardukas after they fail to show up at the drop point. After an unsuccessful attempt to capture Mardukas, Dorfler cancels Walsh’s credit card, leaving him without funds. From this point forward, Walsh has to steal cars, hitchhike, and engage in other questionable activity to complete his job.

The Duo Make The Perfect Odd Couple

Simply put, the beats and storyboard to Midnight Run are fertile ground for a knee-slapping odd couple comedy. But what truly puts the icing on the cake is the chemistry between De Niro and Grodin, who clearly knew the assignment and stole the show with their trivial bickering as the story unfolds. From arguing over the appropriate amount a server should be tipped at a restaurant, to Walsh shoving a gun in Mardukas’ face while telling him to relax, the duo’s deadpan delivery is pure comedy gold that only the most seasoned of professionals are capable of delivering.

Midnight Run Spawned Sequels After Being Such A Box Office Hit

Upon its release, Midnight Run earned an impressive $81.6 million against its reported budget of $35 million, making it a commercial success. The movie was so successful, financially speaking, that the property yielded three made-for-TV sequels called The Midnight Run Action Pack for Universal Television’s Action Pack TV programming block in 1994. Though these sequels didn’t feature De Niro or Grodin, it did carry over lore and characters from the film.

Critically speaking, Midnight Run holds a 95 percent critical score based on 56 reviews, and ranks among the highest of Robert De Nero’s films alongside films like Brazil, A Bronx Tale, The Godfather, Part II, and The Irishman. Believe it or not, this action comedy has a higher critical score than Goodfellas, but only by a single percent point.

Roger Ebert even gave Midnight Run a 3.5 out of 4 star rating, praising the chemistry between De Niro and Grodin, and went on to say that their accomplishments in the comedy thriller genre were astonishing. Midnight Run ended up being nominated for the 46th Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy, and De Niro was nominated as well for Best Actor.

Midnight Run Is Streaming On Netflix

midnight run

In many ways, Midnight Run was a suitable and successful proof of concept for a Robert De Niro led comedy film. Though we wouldn’t really see more comedies from the legendary actor at an increased frequency until the late ’90s and early aughts with films like Analyze This and Meet the Parents, Midnight Run showed us that your typical hard-nosed dramatic actor knows how to let loose and have some fun when the opportunity presents itself.