So Brett Ratner is plotting a sequel to Midnight Run. The beloved 1988 buddy comedy starring Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin is one of those perfect movies with a screenplay (by George Gallo) that is structurally flawless; a deep and inspired cast that includes Dennis Farina, Joe Pantoliano, and Yaphet Kotto; and lighting-in-a-bottle chemistry between the two leads, who play a bounty hunter (De Niro) tasked with tracking down the Duke, an embezzling accountant (Grodin) wanted by the feds and the mob. De Niro had played funny before — in Scorsese’s The King of Comedy — but his Jack Walsh was a revelation at the time. I’d go as far as to say that Jack Walsh — the uncorruptable ex-cop from Chicago who scrounges out a living on the road because he refused to go on a mobster’s payroll, who is just smart enough to keep ahead of trouble even when everything goes against him, who still wears the broken watch his ex-wife once gave him — is as endearing and enduring a character as the Academy Award winner has ever played. Once you learn about the Duke’s circumstance, you begin to hope he doesn’t reach the authorities, but you never stop rooting for Walsh to feel the sun’s rays on his back just once. That the film concludes with both men surviving with their souls intact, without feeling like a Hollywood cop-out, is an impressive achievement for which Gallo and the actors share credit.
So here’s where I’m supposed to condemn Tower Heist director Brett Ratner’s chutzpah and say to him those two words that Jack Walsh liked so much: “Shut the f— up!” But I won’t. I can’t. I admit I do have some trepidation about a sequel, but I’m actually willing to risk a movie that fails to live up to the original, because, well… I simply want to see Jack and the Duke together again. De Niro’s production company is involved, and even though he’s 68 and Grodin is 77, I’d line up to see their characters butt heads again. Ratner could call it Grumpier Old Midnight Run, or whatever, and I’m still in. I even have the plot: Twenty-four years after Walsh helped the feds nab Chicago mobster Jimmy Serrano, the kingpin is finally getting out of jail. And his first order of business is to finish off what he started — kill the Duke, who’s since become a famous cable-TV finance personality on MSNBC. Throw in rival bounty hunter Marvin Dorfler (John Ashton), toss in Kotto’s feds, and sprinkle in Morons 1 and 2. Mix. Enjoy. I just described a film better than 80 percent of today’s action comedies.
Normally, I’m offended by the mere notion of a remake or sequel to a film that I feel such a personal connection to, a film that remains as entertaining today as the day it opened in theaters. But as perfect as the ending was to Midnight Run, I’m eager to take another road trip with those characters. They promised they’d meet up in the next life, but I want to see them order surf and turf. I want to see them attempt the litmus configuration. And I want to see some really really good looking chickens, because they don’t make those kind of movies any more.
Are you outraged by the idea of resurrecting these characters for an AARP adventure? Are you opposed to any sequel, or just one with Brett Ratner at the helm? I appreciate your concern, but “Make yourself a sandwich, drink a glass of milk… Do some f—in’ thing.” A sequel wouldn’t be an easy midnight run, but it would be worth the trouble.