Midnight Run

Midnight Run
Midnight Run

Theatrical poster
Directed by Martin Brest
Produced by Martin Brest
Written by George Gallo
Starring Robert De Niro
Charles Grodin
Yaphet Kotto
John Ashton
Dennis Farina
Joe Pantoliano
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography Donald E. Thorin
Editing by Chris Lebenzon
Michael Tronick
Billy Weber
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) July 20, 1988
Running time 126 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million
Box office $81.6 million

Midnight Run is a 1988 American action comedy film starring Robert De Niro (in his Golden Globe-nominated performance) as a bounty hunter and Charles Grodin as his prisoner.

The film was later followed by three made-for-TV movies produced in 1994, which did not feature any of the principal actors, although a few characters are carried over from the first film.



Jack Walsh (Robert DeNiro) is a tough-mannered bounty hunter, who doesn't play by the rules. He is given an assignment by bondsman Eddie Moscone (Joe Pantoliano), who posted $450,000 bail for Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin), an accountant who embezzled $15 million from Chicago mobster Jimmy Serrano (Dennis Farina) who is currently based in Las Vegas. Eddie asks Jack to bring The Duke back to L.A. before Friday at midnight, in 5 days, or else Eddie defaults on the bond and loses his business. Although Eddie thinks of this as a 'Midnight Run' (an easy job), Jack demands a $100,000 bounty for the job. As Jack investigates where The Duke is hiding, he’s approached first by humorless FBI Special Agent Alonzo Mosely (Yaphet Kotto), and later in New York by Serrano’s sullen-faced henchmen Tony (Richard Foronjy) and Joey (Robert Miranda). Mosley wants to capture The Duke himself to be a key witness and enable Mosley to put Serrano away, while Serrano’s men offer Jack $1 million to turn The Duke over to them, so that they and Serrano can hold their own "trial" of him, and "sentence" him to execution for his embezzlement and double-crossing. Jack manages to steal Mosley’s ID badge, while ignoring Serrano’s offer, having earlier implied that Serrano was responsible for driving Jack out of Chicago when Jack was a cop there.

Jack takes custody of The Duke and calls Eddie at the airport, not knowing that Eddie’s line is tapped by the FBI and Jerry Geisler (Jack Kehoe), Eddie’s assistant, who is secretly working for Tony and Joey. When The Duke creates a massive panic attack on the plane from his supposed fear of flying, Jack is forced to transport him via train. When Jack and The Duke don’t show up in L.A., Eddie calls in rival bounty hunter Marvin Dorfler (John Ashton) to find them. Marvin uses Jack’s credit card number to find out where they are and subsequently has the card canceled. Jack is able to get the drop on Marvin and leaves the train, but without funds from his line of credit, he is now forced to rely on other means of getting across the country, including stealing cars, borrowing his ex-wife’s (Wendy Phillips) car in Chicago, hitchhiking and even briefly flying on a biplane (The Duke’s fear of flying having been a ruse to slow Jack down).

Throughout the film, The Duke tries to get to know Jack, whom The Duke suspects is a decent person under the bluster. Jack reveals that he intends to retire from being a bounty hunter with the $100,000 bounty to open his own coffee shop. Jack also eventually reveals that in the past he had been working as an undercover officer trying to get close to Serrano. However, Serrano’s men in the Chicago police force outed him by planting heroin in his house; rather than taking money from Serrano to keep his mouth shut like the other corrupt officers, Jack (whose only other option was a 30-year prison sentence for apparent drug possession) was forced to leave in disgrace, leaving behind his daughter as well. Jack and The Duke slowly begin to bond with each other, professing that they could be friends "in the next life".

While they are in Arizona, Marvin finally catches up with them and takes The Duke away from Jack. Jack, meanwhile, is finally found by Mosely. When Jack calls Eddie and finds out that Marvin is not intending to turn The Duke over to him, he realizes that Marvin, who unlike Jack only cares about the higher reward he will get from Serrano even if it means death to The Duke, intends to turn The Duke over to Serrano. Jack calls Tony and bluffs that he has some computer disks that The Duke created with enough information to put Serrano away. In exchange for the disks at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Jack will re-gain custody of The Duke. Marvin tries to get $2 million from Tony and Joey for The Duke by refusing to tell them where The Duke is unless they pay up, and proving that he has him in custody by showing them a Polaroid photo he took of The Duke in a hotel bathroom. However, with the name of the hotel on the bathroom towel in the photo, Tony learns where he is, and knocks Marvin out and takes custody of The Duke himself. At McCarran Airport, Jack meets up with Serrano while wearing a wire and being watched by Mosely and the other FBI men. Marvin, having regained consciousness and come to the airport to fly back home after his failed mission, spots The Duke and interrupts the exchange, not knowing why they’re all there. Marvin arrogantly punches Jack in the side and unknowingly disables Jack’s wire, preventing him from informing the FBI agents by radio that Serrano has incriminated himself by taking the disks or that Serrano's hit men are approaching to assassinate him and The Duke. At the last minute, Jack is able to yell that Serrano has the disks; the FBI closes in, arresting Serrano, his henchmen and Marvin, while Jack takes custody of The Duke to bring him back to L.A.

In L.A., Jack calls Eddie to tell him that he has The Duke, but that he’s letting him go. Jack tells The Duke that he did what he wanted to – get The Duke back to L.A. by the deadline. Before parting, Jack hands The Duke his broken watch, a gift given to him by his then wife. The Duke then hands Jack his own gift – a money belt “in the neighborhood” of $300,000 in $1,000 bills. They each part ways with the line “See you in the next life”, before The Duke disappears once again. Jack then tries flagging down a taxicab; however, when he asks if the cab driver has change for $1,000, he’s roughly rebuffed, and Jack opts to walk home.


  • Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh: a bounty hunter dedicated to serving justice. Formerly a Chicago cop, he was disgraced from the force due to the department's corruption, and has since lost faith in the law and developed a gruff attitude.
  • Charles Grodin as Jonathan "The Duke" Mardukas: a mob accountant who embezzled 15 million dollars from Jimmy Serrano and goes on the run until Jack Walsh finds him.
  • Yaphet Kotto as Alonzo Mosely: an FBI Agent determined to bring Mardukas into court and have him send Jimmy Serrano to prison. He and Jack form a comedic rivalry throughout the film. Kotto would later reprise the role of Mosely in the comedy Witless Protection starring Larry The Cable Guy.
  • John Ashton as Marvin Dorfler: a bounty hunter and Jack's sworn rival. While not as smart as Jack, he is extremely resourceful, managing to find Jack when the gangsters and FBI cannot.
  • Dennis Farina as Jimmy Serrano: a mob boss who drove Jack Walsh out of the police force and who now wants Mardukas dead. He serves as the main villain of the film.
  • Joe Pantoliano as Eddie Moscone: an uptight bail bondsman who bailed Mardukas out of prison with a high price. He hires both Jack and Marvin to capture Mardukas before the deadline that will drive him bankrupt.
  • Richard Foronjy as Tony Darvo: henchman of Jimmy Serrano
  • Robert Miranda as Joey: henchman of Jimmy Serrano
  • Jack Kehoe as Jerry Geisler: works for Eddie, but is also an informant to Tony
  • Wendy Phillips as Gail: ex-wife of Jack
  • Danielle DuClos as Denise Walsh: Jack's daughter
  • Philip Baker Hall as Sidney: adviser of Jimmy Serrano
  • Tom McCleister as Bill "Red" Wood: a bartender who is tricked into giving Jack and The Duke his twenty dollar bills.


After completing The Untouchables, De Niro wanted to try something different and decided on appearing in a comedy.[1] He pursued the lead role in Penny Marshall's film, Big.[1] Marshall was interested but the studio was not and the role went to Tom Hanks. Martin Brest, who directed Beverly Hills Cop, had developed a script with George Gallo that blended elements of comedy and action.[1] Paramount Pictures was originally interested in backing Midnight Run, but they wanted a big name star opposite De Niro in order to improve the film's chances at the box office.[1] Their production executives suggested that the Mardukas character be changed to a woman and wanted Cher for the role in the hope she would provide some "sexual overtones".[1] When Brest rejected the idea, Paramount suggested teaming De Niro up with Robin Williams, who became eager to get the role and offered to audition for Brest.[1] However, Brest was impressed by Charles Grodin's audition with De Niro. The director felt that there was a real chemistry between the two actors. As a result, Paramount backed out and their UIP partner Universal Studios became interested in the project.[1] Paramount president Ned Tanen claimed that the budget became too high and he decided that "it wasn't worth it".[2]

To research for his role, De Niro worked with real-life bounty hunters and police officers.[3] As Jack uncuffs the Duke on the train, the Duke says, "Thanks, 'cause they're starting to cut into my wrists.'" In fact, Grodin has permanent scars resulting from the handcuffs he had to wear for most of the film.[4] In the scene where Grodin fell off a cliff, it was shot on location in the Verde River in Clarkdale, Arizona and the conclusion, taking place in rapids, was shot in New Zealand because the water was too cold in Arizona.[5]

Universal invested $15 million in a print and television advertising campaign.[2]


The film's score was composed by Danny Elfman, with the album released by MCA Records.

  1. Walsh Gets The Duke (1:47)
  2. Main Titles (2:21)
  3. Stairway Chase (:54)
  4. J.W. Gets a Plan (1:41)
  5. Gears Spin I (:54)
  6. Dorfler's Theme (1:24)
  7. F.B.I. (1:16)
  8. Package Deal (1:07)
  9. Mobocopter (2:42)
  10. Freight Train Hop (1:18)
  11. Drive To Red's (1:04)
  12. In The Next Life (1:06)
  13. The River (1:19)
  14. The Wild Ride (1:31)
  15. Amarillo Dawn (:26)
  16. Potato Walk (1:09)
  17. Desert Run (1:09)
  18. Diner Blues (1:19)
  19. Dorfler's Problem (1:01)
  20. Gear's Spin II (1:30)
  21. The Confrontation (2:30)
  22. The Longest Walk (1:32)
  23. Walsh Frees The Duke (2:44)
  24. End Credits: "Try to Believe" - Mosley & The B-Men (4:16)

Note: The end credits track as heard in the film is instrumental.


Box office

Midnight Run was released on July 20, 1988 in 1,158 theaters grossing USD $5.5 million in its opening weekend. It went on to make $38.4 million in North America and $43.2 million in the rest of the world for a worldwide total of $81.6 million.[6]


Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars and wrote, "What Midnight Run does with these two characters is astonishing, because it's accomplished within the structure of a comic thriller ... It's rare for a thriller to end with a scene of genuinely moving intimacy, but this one does, and it earns it."[7] In his review for the Globe and Mail, Jay Scott praised the performances: "De Niro has the time of his acting life lightening up and sending up all those raging bulls that won him all those Oscars ... Charles Grodin, master of the double-take and maestro of the slow burn, the best light character comic since Jack Benny stopped playing himself".[8] Vincent Canby, in his review for the New York Times, wrote, "Mr. De Niro and Mr. Grodin are lunatic delights, which is somewhat more than can be said for the movie, whose mechanics keep getting in the way of the performances".[9] In his review for the Washington Post, Hal Hinson criticized director Martin Brest for, "carrying the dead weight of George Gallo's script, Brest isn't up to the strenuous task of transforming his uninspired genre material in something deeper, and so the attempts to mix pathos with comedy strike us merely as wild and disorienting vacillations in tone".[10] David Ansen, in his review for Newsweek, wrote, "The outline of George Gallo's script -- odd-couple antagonists become buddies under perilous circumstances -- was stale five years ago, and the outcome offers no surprises. Too bad: a lot of good work has been wasted on an unworthy cause".[11] Midnight Run has a 96% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.[12]



Proposed second film

Universal Pictures has hired Tim Dowling to write a sequel with Robert De Niro reprising his role as Jack Walsh. In addition to starring, the actor will also be producing the film with Jane Rosenthal. Charles Grodin may be reprising his role.[13]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Parker, John (1995). "De Niro". Victor Gollancz. 
  2. ^ a b "De Niro is Making the Publicity Rounds". St. Petersburg Times: pp. 3D. May 23, 1988. 
  3. ^ O'Regan, Michael (July 17, 1988). "The Private De Niro". Sunday Mail. 
  4. ^ Grodin, Charles (1989). "It Would Be So Nice If You Weren't Here". William & Morrow & Company, Inc.. 
  5. ^ van Gelder, Laurence (July 21, 1988). "Off a Cliff, Across an Ocean: Splash!". New York Times: pp. 19. 
  6. ^ "Midnight Run". Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=midnightrun.htm. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 20, 1988). "Midnight Run". Chicago Sun-Times. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19880720/REVIEWS/807200301/1023. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  8. ^ Scott, Jay (July 20, 1988). "Midnight Run". Globe and Mail. 
  9. ^ Canby, Vincent (July 20, 1988). "De Niro and Grodin in Cross-Country Chase". New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=940DE5DA1E30F933A15754C0A96E948260. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  10. ^ Hinson, Hal (July 20, 1988). "Random Bounty". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/midnightrunrhinson_a0a8d0.htm. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  11. ^ Ansen, David (July 25, 1988). "Reactivating Action Heroes". Newsweek. 
  12. ^ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/midnight_run/
  13. ^ Kit, Borys (March 5, 2010). "Universal taking another Midnight Run". The Hollywood Reporter. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/news/e3ie0341f942810261f8e6808e11c31e407. Retrieved 2010-03-08. [dead link]

External links

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