Midnight Run is a 1988 American action/comedy/buddy film starring Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin as a bounty hunter and his prisoner. The film's title originates from a bounty hunter phrase that refers to a task that is relatively easy. The film was later followed by three made-for-TV movies produced in 1994, which did not feature any of the principal actors, although the above characters are carried over from the first film. The sequels also had a much lighter tone than the original, and did not seem to directly follow the canon established in the first film.
Jonathan Mardukas (Grodin) is an accountant who embezzled $15 million from Las Vegas gangster Jimmy Serrano (Farina) and skipped bail. He is hiding in New York when his Los Angeles bail bondsman, Eddie Moscone (Pantoliano), hires Jack Walsh (De Niro), a former Chicago police officer now earning a living as a bounty hunter, to bring the accountant back to L.A. "It's an easy gig, it's a midnight run," he promises. To get the $100,000 bounty, Walsh needs to get Mardukas back to L.A. before midnight on Friday, at which time Moscone forfeits the bail money he put up. The FBI, led by the eternally put-upon Special Agent Alonzo Mosely (Kotto), want Mardukas under arrest to build their case against Serrano. Serrano, meanwhile, knows that Mardukas has access to financial information that could lead to his conviction, and has no intention of allowing him to live long enough to make that happen. After tracing and grabbing Mardukas in Manhattan, Walsh is unable to take Mardukas to L.A. by plane due to Mardukas's professed fear of flying, which gets them thrown off their transcontinental flight. The pair embark on a wild cross-country chase (with Mardukas even temporarily piloting a plane, proving that his fear of flying was a ruse), relying on various unreliable modes of transportation, all the while dodging the FBI, Serrano's idiotic goons Tony (Richard Foronjy) and Joey (Robert Miranda) and dumb, rival bounty hunter Marvin Dorfler, hired by Moscone as insurance. Walsh and Mardukas bicker constantly, due to the clash of Walsh's rough-hewn personality and Mardukas's habit of nagging. Much of the movie involves Mardukas's sincere effort to uncover the truth about his captor, a man he suspects is a decent guy beneath the violent behavior and 10-pack-a-day cigarette habit. He eventually learns that Walsh was a former Chicago undercover detective who refused to go on the take of a heroin dealer he tried to arrest, and was drummed out of the force after being framed for heroin possession by a colleague and driven out of Chicago. His wife ended up remarrying the lieutenant who fired him, and Walsh hasn't seen his daughter since she was a little girl. The gangster responsible for "the payroll" was Jimmy Serrano himself. Walsh, for his part, wants to see the job done so he can open a coffee shop with his promised $100,000 bounty. After making it as far as Arizona, the two are chased by dozens of police cars. They narrowly dodge the police, but Mardukas is captured by Marvin. Finally figuring out how much Mardukas is actually worth, Marvin decides to give him up to Tony and Joey for $1 million. However, Marvin inadvertently reveals where Mardukas is, and Mardukas is captured by Serrano's men. Still intent on finishing the job, Walsh calls Serrano's men and tells them that Mardukas gave him computer disks with enough information to put Serrano away. Walsh threatens to turn the disks over to the FBI unless Serrano himself returns Mardukas to him at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. At the airport, Serrano and Walsh confront each other for the first time since Walsh left Chicago. The exchange is interrupted by Marvin, who sees the exchange going on, not knowing that the FBI are watching and waiting for Serrano to take possession of the disks. (Even though the disks have nothing on them, Serrano's taking possession of them would be enough to indict him.) Walsh, whose microphone wire gets knocked out by Marvin, yells to the FBI that Serrano has the disks. The FBI move in, arresting Serrano, his men, and Marvin. Walsh takes Mardukas back to Los Angeles. After calling Eddie and telling him he has "The Duke" in L.A. before the deadline, Walsh then tells Eddie that he's letting Mardukas go. Before Walsh can walk away, they exchange gifts - Walsh hands Mardukas his broken watch (a gift from his ex-wife when they first started dating, indicating Mardukas was the one who finally showed him that holding onto hope of being with her was foolish), and Mardukas hands Walsh his money belt - filled with $300,000 in $1,000 bills. Mardukas was planning on leaving before Walsh showed up, so he didn't have time to use the money. The two part as friends, telling each other a line they repeated: "See you in the next life." Mardukas then disappears, and Walsh tries to get a cab. However, since the cabbie doesn't have "change for a thousand," Walsh pulls up his collar. "Looks like I'm walkin'."