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Film: Midnight Run

1988 comedy starring Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin. De Niro is Jack Walsh, an (unfairly) disgraced ex-cop turned bounty hunter charged with finding fugitive mob accountant Jonathan Mardukas (Grodin) and returning him to Los Angeles before the deadline expires on his bond. De Niro must go cross-country while fighting a rival bounty hunter, the FBI which is trying to catch Grodin, the Mafia which is trying to kill him, and Grodin, whose eccentricities make him a difficult prisoner.

A very entertaining film, and one of De Niro's first comedies.

Tropes in this film:

  • Anachronism Stew: At the time of the film's release $1000 dollar bills had been out of circulation for 20 years.
  • Apparently Powerless Puppetmaster: Mardukas, to the point that he deserves to be a Trope Codifier. Firstly, he convinces Jack that he has a fear of flying by having an extravagant freak-out on an airliner, thereby obliging them to travel from New York to LA over land. He then makes the most of the time he's gained by making Jack drop his guard, firstly by behaving like an apparently hapless dweeb, but at the same time asking Jack Armor Piercing Questions, offering him genuinely useful advice, and otherwise befriending him, to the point that when they finally arrive at their destination, Jack has become so fond of Mardukas that he lets him go.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "Why aren't you popular with the Chicago Police Department?"
    • "What happened to you?"
    • Serrano to Walsh: "Does it bother you that another copper's fucking your wife? You know they made this guy a captain?"
  • Authentication by Newspaper: Marvin does this to prove to the mob that he's got Mardukas. Unfortunately for him, he photographed Mardukas holding the newspaper with the towels from the motel where they're staying clearly visible, and since the towels clearly have the motel's name on them, it's easy for the mobsters to get Mardukas without having to pay Marvin.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Jack and Mardukas, duh. Jack gets the Duke to LA before midnight on Friday, as he'd promised he would, but then lets Mardukas go without any prospect of reward. Mardukas is so touched that he gives Jack the $300,000 he'd been carrying all along as travel money.
  • Bail Equals Freedom: Used a few times in the sequels, where Jack gets in trouble with local law enforcement and then posts bail. Egregious because the main character's job is to hunt down bail jumpers and bring them back to Los Angeles for prosecution, so they really should know better.
  • Bounty Hunter
  • Bowdlerise: Grodin's rant about plane crashes was heavily edited for airplane showings of the movie, for obvious reasons.
  • Chained Heat
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Jack's a pottymouth. So are Eddie Moscone and Jimmy Serrano.
    • The entire movie is a carpet F-Bombing campaign. There is hardly a scene where it isn't dropped, repeatedly.
    "If I hear any more shit outta you, I'm gonna bust your fuckin' head, put you back in that fuckin' hole, stick your head in the fuckin' toilet bowl, and make it stay there!"
  • The Consigliere: Serrano's advisor Sidney, whose advice Jimmy frequently disregards.
  • Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists: Apparently Grodin suffered permanent scarring from the handcuffs.
  • Death Glare: Mosley to Jack, after this exchange:
    Moseley: (gloating) "What should be of paramount importance to you right now is that you're going to spend ten years for impersonating a federal agent."
    Walsh: "Ten years for impersonating a fed?"
    Moseley: "Ten years!"
    Walsh: "How come no one's after you?"
    • Walsh to Serrano, after Serrano asks how he feels about another man fucking his wife.
  • Disappeared Dad: Jack Walsh to his family after being run out of Chicago. See Tear Jerker on YMMV.
  • Enemy Mine: Jack Walsh, Marvin Dorfler and Alonzo Moseley at various points in the movie.
  • Everybody Smokes: Played straight with most of the characters, especially Jack, who lights up every chance he can get in late 80s America, and there are plenty; averted with Mardukas, who not only doesn't smoke but urges Jack to put his cigarette out for the sake of his health.
  • 555: "KL5"
  • Good Is Not Nice: Jack Walsh and Alonzo Moseley
  • Hidden Depths: Jack Walsh to Mardukas in a very effective scene when the pair is driving from Chicago to Amarillo. Mardukas realizes after getting a surprisingly honest answer to an Armor-Piercing Question that Jack isn't a Corrupt Cop but rather an honorable, unfairly disgraced Knight in Sour Armor.
  • Hairpin Lockpick: Averted. Jack picks locks using a tension bar and a snapper pick, one of the very few realistic depictions of lockpicking in a Hollywood film.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Walsh impersonates an FBI agent.
  • Justified Criminal: Mardukas. He stole from the mob and gave the money away to charity. It's the main reason why Jack lets him go in the end.
  • Look Behind You: Walsh gets Marvin with this repeatedly. Until the one time it's for real.
  • The Mafia
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Walsh is a bounty hunter because he was framed as a Dirty Cop, which he wasn't.
  • The Mole: Jerry is constantly tipping off the mob hit men as to Walsh's location.
  • Nice Guy: Jonathan Mardukas. He's an accountant, has a wife who he loves, a loyal dog, tries not to swear, shows respect even to those who don't return it, and can say hello in many different languages.
  • Nothing Personal: Marvin says this to Jack right after swooping in to take Jack's hard-won bounty at the beginning.
  • Not So Different:
    Jonathan Mardukas: You're OK, Jack. I think . . . under different circumstances you and I probably still would have hated each other.
  • Odd Couple
  • Oh, Crap: When Jack realizes that Marvin is planning to give Mardukas to the mob.
  • One Last Job: Walsh hopes to collect the large bounty from apprehending Mardukas and open a coffee shop.
  • Poke in the Third Eye: Walsh realizes Eddie's phone is tapped and starts giving false information over it to mock the agents listening in.
    Jack Walsh: Where am I? I'm in Boise, Idaho; no, no, no, wait a minute: I'm in Anchorage, Alaska. No, no, wait: I'm in Casper, Wyoming; I'm in the lobby of a Howard Johnson's and I'm wearing a pink carnation.
  • Police Are Useless: Man, let's hope the FBI isn't as incompetent as it comes off in this movie.
  • Precision F-Strike: Mardukas is generally pleasant and refrains from swearing, but after his attempt to explain his actions and plead for his life results in Walsh brushing him off, he drops one.
    Mardukas: "I'm in your way? I'm in your way? What you mean is you want the money for turning me in because that's all you're about. You're just about the fucking money!"
  • Race Against the Clock: Jack has to get Mardukas back to LA before the expiration date on the bond, or else he doesn't get the money.
  • Recycled: The Series: as a series of Made For TV Movies for the Action Pack, starring Christopher McDonald in the DeNiro role and various guest-stars as the Grodin-equivalents.
  • The Rival: Marvin to Jack.
  • Road Movie
  • Running Gag:
    • Jack keeps forgetting his watch is broken and checking it.
    • Alonzo Moseley has a habit of taking things off the people he's interrogating / intimidating and 'forgetting' to return them. He confiscates Jack's sunglasses at one point and makes a habit of stealing Marvin's cigarettes.
    • Jack having stolen Moseley's FBI ID early on, he keeps using it to (mis)identify himself and get away with stuff, and Moseley keeps running into people who think that Jack's real name is Alonzo Moseley.
    • Jack constantly tricking Marvin, knocking him unconscious and stealing/borrowing his stuff.
    • Jack and Moseley, and the sunglasses. "Gee, I've been looking all over for these! Thanks, Alonzo!"
    • Moseley's deadpan reaction any time his underlings come to him with an update. "Is this good news or bad news?" "Is this going to upset me?"
    • Jack and Marvin, usually after knocking the other person out: "See you in L.A., Jack!/Marvin!"
      • With a Call Back to Moseley's kleptomania at the end. "Yeah, watch your cigarettes with this guy, Jack."
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: When they finally get to LAX after all they've been through together, Jack gives up on his dream of a coffee shop, instead letting Mardukas go. Mardukas responds by giving Jack $300K, which he's had the whole time, for the coffee shop.
    Mardukas: It's not a payoff, it's a gift. You already let me go.
  • Tap on the Head: Jack, Marvin and Serrano's goons seem to have a gift with knocking people unconscious with a single punch to the face.
  • Those Two Guys: Tony and Joey, the two Mooks who work for Serrano. Serrano himself refers to them as "Moron Number One" and "Moron Number Two".
  • Title Drop
  • Two Words: Obvious Trope: Walsh is getting annoyed by Mardukas' nagging, leading to the following exchange.
    Mardukas: Jack, you're a grown man. You have control over your own words.
    Walsh: You're God damn right I do, so here come two for you, 'Shut the fuck up'.
  • Viva Las Vegas: setting for the climax.
  • Working the Same Case: Walsh and the FBI.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Walsh has fallen into a raging river. Mardukas extends a helping hand but says "Promise to let me go." Walsh agrees and Mardukas pulls him out. Walsh slaps the handcuffs on Mardukas and says he'll let Mardukas go when Mardukas is back in jail.

Men Behind the SunFilms of the 1980sMiracle Mile

alternative title(s): Midnight Run
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