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Midnight Run Film Review
Although it doesn’t quite have the magic of his earlier Beverly Hills Cop, director Martin Brest works wonders with an energetic Robert De Niro in this memorably-scripted buddy-buddy action-comedy.The formula may be more than familiar now, well over a quarter of a Century later, but Midnight Run was, back then, still a relatively rare beast. Released the year after Lethal Weapon, and boasting a heady mix of cop chaos, mobster mayhem, witty banter, and fugitive fun, with De Niro’s ex-cop-turned-bounty-hunter finding his hardest job yet in transporting Charles Brodin’s unwitting mob accountant across the country. With Yaphet “Alien” Kotto’s dogged FBI Agent on their trail, John “Beverly Hills Cop” Ashton’s bullish bounty hunter colleague determined to get the reward, Dennis “Get Shorty” Farina’s mob boss out to kill them, and Joe “The Matrix” Pantoliano’s bail bondsman manager desperate to get his prize, the mismatched duo must flee by any means – planes, trains and automobiles – to get back to LA in one piece.If you haven’t seen Midnight Run, but have seen the fun but throwaway Dwayne Johnson action-comedy The Rundown (renamed Welcome to the Jungle in the UK) then this may be an even more familiar effort, as the latter was basically an unacknowledged remake / reworking of the same story. Of course Brest’s original was far better, with a sharp screenplay written by the guy who would go on to work on the excellent banter in Bad Boys, and a fun score by Danny Elfman, further reminding you of the whole Beverly Hills Cop feel to the piece. De Niro gets a rare chance to do something lighter, which he wanted as a relief from all the Scorsese masterpieces that had taken their toll on him in the preceding years, and he has great chemistry with Charles Grodin, and they remind you of the days when filmmakers really knew how to balance action and comedy.
Blu-ray Picture QualityNormally the fall-back plan for any disappointing release is to talk about how it’s “the best that the film has ever looked” or talk about the fact that it is “still a step up from the DVD”, but this is genuinely one of the first titles I’ve ever come across in almost 15 years of reviewing which struggles to meet even those two rather low expectations.
This Region B-locked UK release unfortunately provides arguably one of the most problematic, and undeniably disappointing, video presentations I’ve come across in a long time.
Sure, there are a few nicer shots peppered across the piece, but they are almost the reverse quota you’d normally expect – you’d normally forgive a film if it had this many bad shots peppered across the piece, rather than finding a bad presentation has this few good shots peppered across it. Softness prevails over detail, edge enhancement and digital sharpening are evident almost throughout (it’s rare these days that you come across presentations worthy of comparison to that Predator debacle), and even the colours appear to be slightly off, with oranges and red preventing otherwise healthy tones. Black levels are reasonably strong, at least, although that does not save all the shadow detail, and it’s hard to see how this presentation could get much worse. Undoubtedly in need of some serious remastering work, it’s a shame we had to wait so long for such a disappointing video presentation.
Blu-ray Sound Quality
The audio track is far harder to criticise, with the dual tracks on offer both clean and respectable, with decent presence.
Whilst the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is probably the preferred choice, there’s nothing wrong with the original English LPCM 5.1 variation either. For the former, we get clear and coherent dissemination of the dialogue across the fronts and centre channels, with a reasonable amount of effects coverage opening up over the surrounds. Sure, the atmospherics are occasionally a little muffled – gunshots in particular don’t have the kind of presence that we have been spoiled by with modern films like Walk Among the Tombstones. The energetic score, however – by Danny Elfman – is a joy, and provides plenty more material for the surrounds, further reminding us of the fun of Martin Brest’s early Beverly Hills Cop, albeit without the synth theme. Overall it’s a solid offering.
Blu-ray ExtrasA selection of 5 new extended interviews provide some welcome retrospective insight into the film and the production. We Got the Duke spends 13 minutes with Charles Grodin, discussing how he got the role, and what they wanted from whoever partnered up with DeNiro, as well as working with Martin Brest. Moscone Bail Bonds has Joe Pantoliano spending a quarter of an hour reflecting on his early days in the movie business, and what it felt like to have to jump right into having conversations with Robert De Niro on the phone. Hey Marvin! has Beverly Hills Cop’s John Ashton spending 18 minutes talking about reuniting with Martin Brest for another action comedy, with some nice anecdotes about working on the film.
Perhaps the highlight of the disc – given the disappointments of the video – is the selection of newly-minted extra features.
The longest of the new Interviews, Midnight Writer, is with screenwriter George Gallo who spends 25 minutes talking about how the project came together, and working with Martin Brest, and the last of the interviews is I’m Mosley, which is an audio-only offering with the great Yaphet Kotto, talking about his FBI Agent role. The disc is rounded off by an original archival Making Midnight Run EPK promo.
Midnight Run Blu-ray VerdictThere’s plenty of love for the cult classic action-comedy Midnight Run, a rare early example of fun frivolity from Robert De Niro, who has a great time on his surprisingly eventful road trip with Charles Grodin, as director Martin Brest manages to recapture at least some of the magic evident in his earlier Beverly Hills Cop.
It’s a shame that fans have waited so long for a film that ends up with a presentation that looks this bad.
There’s no way around the picture issues that this Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release has, and it’s hard to regard it as any kind of upgrade, but solid audio and a surprisingly plentiful selection of newly-minted Interviews likely still makes this a must-have purchase for fans. I’d like to say that the film is fun enough to make you forget the video flaws, but there’s every chance you might find them just too distracting. That said, without many alternative options – and likely no deluxe remaster ever arriving for this relatively niche title – you may just have to swallow the bad with the good here.
You can buy Midnight Run on Blu-ray here
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