Friday, March 11, 2016

Favorite Scene Friday: The Litmus Configuration

Of all the 80s buddy movies, Midnight Run remains my favourite. It's also my favourite road movie, and probably my favourite Robert DeNiro movie. It's definitely my favourite Charles Grodin movie, but then again that's pretty much just between this, King Kong and The Great Muppet Caper. Midnight Run sees bail bonds bounty hunter Jack Walsh (DeNiro) tasked with bringing in fugitive mob accountant Jonathan "The Duke" Mardukas. The Duke is in New York, and Walsh's boss (Joe Pantoliano) needs him back in L.A. in five days time. It sounds pretty straight forward, until you factor in The Duke's refusal to travel by air, and the many and numerous other people after him. The FBI, led by agent Alonzo Mosely (Yaphet Kotto), want The Duke to testify, whilst the mob boss he used to work for, Jimmy Serrano (Dennis Farina) wants The Duke dead, but not before he gets an important disc from his possession. Either way, Walsh's job is a lot trickier than he'd first thought.
Edgar Ascensao
Other than that terrific batch of character actors filling the supporting cast, the best part of Midnight Run is the relationship formed between the two lead men. Grodin in particular is a delight as Mardukas, forever pushing Jack to the brink of madness, but when the two of them end up down on their luck, strapped for cash and with no way to get back to L.A. on time, Walsh finds himself having to rely on the Duke's skills as a con man. Using just his wits and Mozely's stolen FBI badge, Mardukas is able to trick a bar owner into funding the rest of their trip, and this is how he does it:

I love Grodin's confidence here. He nails the smug, serious, all-business demeanour as he flashes the badge at the barman. Plus, his questioning of the patron propping up the bar is great. That long "Mmmmmm" sound is perfect. I'm tempted to just transcribe all the dialogue from the scene, because it's hilarious, but I love it for Grodin's delivery, and it'd be quicker for you to just watch the scene. DeNiro can't be forgotten either. For the most part his Walsh has no idea where Mardukas is going and is just playing along, hence the stumble over "configur-ur-uration." Even in these small moments, DeNiro is always on point. And the big grin on Mardukas' face in the next scene as they exit a store, arms full of food they bought with the stolen money, just shows how proud he is of himself, getting to use his old skills again. I can't understand why Midnight Run isn't discussed more often, in the same breath as the Lethal Weapons and Beverly Hills Cops of the world, and the first of the latter trilogy was also directed by Martin Brest. Perhaps it's due to Brest's later films like Meet Joe Black and Gigli preventing other people from seeing if he ever directed anything decent. Well he did, it's this, and everyone should see it.

What's your favorite 80s buddy movie?


  1. This is awesome. I guess I haven't seen this flick, which is a shame. Adding it to my list!

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