After the success movies like "48 Hours," and "Beverly Hills Cop" established for the genre of the action cop comedy a number of movies tried to ride the wave. Some were more successful than others but clearly, one of the better ones was "Midnight Run." Directed by Martin Brest, who also directed the aforementioned "Beverly Hills Cop," this time we have acting heavyweight Robert De Niro play tough with Charles Grodin in a frenetic chase movie that is both hilarious and suspenseful.
Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) is a bounty hunter who always gets his man. A fallen-from-grace cop because he was incorruptible, he makes a living capturing criminals on the run when he is put on the case to find and deliver "The Duke" in exchange for $100,000 – enough money for him to finally retire.
Jonathan "The Duke" Mardukas is a book keeper for the Mob and he has stolen $15 million from mafia boss Jimmy Serrano (Dennis Farina) and handed it out to charity. Now, everyone wants him. The FBI to use him as a crown witness against the mob, his bail bondsman for running away after he bailed him out of jail, and, of course, Serrano just to settle the bill. As if it weren't enough to have all these people chasing him and his prisoner across the country, another bounty hunter is also eager to be the one to bring in Mardukas.
While they take a cross country trip from New York to LA, Walsh gets to know Mardukas a little better and realizes that he's not half bad. At the same time, Mardukas manages to get through Walsh's rough exterior and reach out to him on a personal level, almost as a friend. However that doesn't prevent him from trying to escape every chance he gets, which in turns upsets Walsh very much… VERY much.
"Midnight Run" is a light-hearted action comedy but not as goofy as the Eddie Murphy flicks. Much grittier in its look the film has a more serious note with less flash but stronger characters in turn. De Niro impresses in a funny part every bit as much as in a dramatic role and he pulls off the character of Walsh with depth and believability. Grodin is the perfect counterpart for him. Soft-spoken and very deliberate he provides most of the comic relief in the film without going over the top or appearing like a stand-up. The characters mesh nicely and perfectly counter balance all the other figures around them.
"Midnight Run" has been available on DVD for years and this HD-DVD version essentially mimics the 2003 DVD version of the movie. Presented in a 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer the image quality of the transfer is pretty good. It isn't outstanding but at the same time it is evident that this is not a brand-new transfer. It looks a bit soft at times with washed-out colors occasionally, and while it holds a good level of detail the moments where the picture truly awes the viewer are exceedingly rare. It is a solid high definition transfer, don't get me wrong. It is what you would expect from a 20-year old movie and it is free of defects or grain. Black levels are solid while ensuring that the image has good visual depth.
The movie comes with a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital Plus audio track that offers an increased bitrate to make sure the presentation is free of compression artifacts. Successfully making use of the discrete surround channels constantly, the film has a good mix that is never overly exaggerated but always active. Whether it's ambient noises, directional effects such as bullets whizzing around the room, or the bustling crowd scenes, the surround channels always help create a wide and immersive sound stage. Danny Elfman has proved a cool score for this movie that is very atypical for his work in general and contains almost Jan "Miami Vice" Hammer-esque coolness at times. It nicely blends with the film and truly enhances some of the faster paced moments while maintaining an emotional tone in others.
This HD-DVD version contains the same "Making Of" featurette that was part of the DVD version. Presented in 480p standard definition the featurette is an off-the-mill promo feature with a bunch of talking head interviews, combined with some footage from the film. Dubious in value it is still nice to see the participants talk about the film. The movie's theatrical trailer is also included.
"Midnight Run" is a fun movie that you can watch over and over again. Its frantic pace, the variety of locales and the funny moments just don't grow tired. This HD-DVD version offers a solid presentation of the movie that makes it even more enjoyable.