A bounty hunter (Robert De Niro) tries to escort a criminal accountant (Charles Grodin) from New York to LA to get his bail paid back and earn a cut of the money. The journey is hampered by the FBI hot on his tail along with the mob, who want the accountant dead.
What an inspired pairing. De Niro plays the straight guy with Grodin’s wise-cracking accountant in tow yet they are smart and witty enough that the comedy comes from both actors. The classic buddy road trip relationship dynamic is there but it also goes in directions you wouldn’t expect.
The screenplay is snappy and well paced. There’s just the right amount of action and downtime to make the story zip along while keeping the stakes high, and letting the characters get to know each other. The ending also does a good job of tying up loose ends without dragging on forever.
Danny Elfman provides the score, seemingly before he decided to become ‘Danny Elfman’; it’s of its time but keeps the film swinging along. It’s also interesting to see some of Philip Baker Hall’s earlier work, playing an old guy even in 1988.
Midnight Run doesn’t get talked about much these days which is a shame because it’s a fun, carefully orchestrated road trip movie that lets its actors do their thing when it counts.