Release Date(s)1988 (April 4, 2023)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Shout! Factory/Shout Select)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B+
Filmmaker Martin Brest was on a roll for several years before he decided to stop directing, having had four hit films back to back, and there didn’t seem to be any end in sight. After the runaway success of Beverly Hills Cop, which made Eddie Murphy one of the biggest stars of the 1980s, and later helming the Academy Award-winning Scent of a Woman in 1992, Brest tackled Midnight Run, which stands today as one of the most enjoyable action comedies of its time. It did fairly well at the box office and was well received by critics, but it wasn’t as big a hit as it probably should have been. It also managed to spawn three made-for-TV movies, none of which featured the original cast or crew.
Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) is an ex-cop who’s now a bounty hunter looking to bring in one last score before getting out of the business altogether. His target, “The Duke” (Charles Grodin), is an ex-mob accountant in hiding. However, transporting The Duke from New York to Los Angeles isn’t going to be easy. Jack must outwit and avoid a couple of goons sent by a mob boss (Dennis Farina), a rival bounty hunter (John Ashton), a double-crossing bail bondsman (Joe Pantoliano), and a tough as nails F.B.I. agent (Yaphet Kotto). On top of all of that, The Duke may drive him nuts along the way.
Midnight Run is one of those films that’s difficult to talk about academically without simply gushing with love for it. As far as how it was made, it was being altered constantly during production, which can often make a film feel more alive than mechanical if the right people are behind the camera. There’s an energy in the performances and the film’s momentum that you don’t often get by simply executing the script or doing pick-ups later. Having the writer on set helped tremendously in that regard. The performances are all terrific and everybody has their time to shine, making it almost feel like a play at times more so than a film. The biggest draw is the chemistry between De Niro and Grodin, which is a delight. Simply put, it’s a solid piece of entertainment.
Midnight Run was shot by director of photography Donald E. Thorin on 35 mm film with Panavision Panaflex cameras and lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio 1.85:1. Scream Factory debuts the film on Ultra HD from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative, graded for High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are included). It’s not a dramatic upgrade from the previous Blu-ray release, but there are definite improvements in terms of color and contrast. Like the previous presentation, grain can be slightly variable, though it’s not always obvious. The disc sports a very healthy bitrate and high levels of fine detail. The HDR grades deepen blacks and give the film’s color palette a little extra muscle, aiding flesh tones and primaries. Everything is stable and clean with only minor speckling. It’s certainly a step up in quality, and most definitely the best film has ever looked on home video.
Audio is included in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. The 5.1 track widens out the original stereo soundtrack, due to how much more space and surround activity there is. Ambient and LFE activity seem to have more of a part to play as well. On both tracks, dialogue is clean and well-prioritized, while Danny Elfman’s upbeat score has plenty of life to it.
Midnight Run on 4K Ultra HD sits in a black amaray case alongside a 1080p Blu-ray with an insert that features artwork from one of the film’s theatrical posters. The following extras are included on the Blu-ray only:
- Interview with Robert De Niro (HD – 8:51)
- We’ve Got The Duke: Interview with Charles Grodin (HD – 12:24)
- Moscone Bail Bonds: Interview with Joe Pantoliano (HD – 14:19)
- Hey Marvin!: Interview with John Ashton (HD – 17:23)
- I’m Mosely!: Audio Interview with Yaphet Kotto (HD – 7:36)
- Midnight Writer: Interview with Screenwriter George Gallo (HD – 24:43)
- Vintage Making-of-Featurette (Upscaled SD – 7:26)
- Theatrical Trailer (Upscaled SD – 1:12)
The extras from the previous releases of the film carry over with nothing new added. The least-interesting is the “interview with Robert De Niro,” which is about nine minutes long and only features a couple of minutes with De Niro total (with the caveat that maybe they only get him to sit down for a couple of minutes at the time). Otherwise, there are some great interviews conducted by the folks from Severin Films, headed by David Gregory. John Ashton gives a surprisingly emotional interview, and both George Gallo and Yaphet Kotto give brutally honest takes on their involvement with the film. There’s also a vintage making of and the shorter version of the theatrical trailer. The longer trailer is still absent, which features many alternate and deleted bits, as are the film’s TV spots. Thankfully, this material can be found on Youtube, if one is so inclined. Otherwise, the most unfortunate omission is an audio commentary with Martin Brest, which is likely to never happen as he’s left the film business.
Reviewing the 4K UHD of Midnight Run nine years after I reviewed the previous Blu-ray release gives me a mix of emotions. It isn’t lost on me that we’ve lost many members of the cast in the intervening years. It’s very sad, but it also makes the film all the more special. The UHD upgrade isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s still a very fine release of a very special film. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons