Dennis Farina, a veteran television and movie actor, passed away on July 22, 2013 at age 69.
A former Chicago police officer, Farina did not begin his acting career until his late 30’s, and – not coincidentally – found his niche playing police detectives and mobsters.
Always a strong presence on screen, Farina often stood out – no matter which side of the law his character supported – as a man one would not want to cross.
If I had to pick my favorite Farina performance, without question, it’s his fearsome and funny role as mobster Jerry Serrano in the 1988 comedy/action classic, “Midnight Run”.
For any fan of cinema, I strongly recommend this movie and his highly entertaining supporting work.
R.I.P. Mr. Farina.
Here is my review.
“Midnight Run” (1988) 5 / 5 stars – Hollywood churned out mountains of buddy action/comedies during the 1980s, and “48 Hrs.” (1982) and “Lethal Weapon” (1987) are rightfully considered two of the finest, however, for my money, “Midnight Run” – starring Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin – is the very best.
In this cross-country adventure, bounty hunter Jack Walsh (De Niro) needs to drag mob accountant Jonathan Mardukas (Grodin) from New York City to Los Angeles to return him to a bail bondsman, Eddie (Joe Pantoliano).
Eddie tells Jack it should be easy.
He exclaims, “It’s a midnight run!”
Unfortunately, for Jack getting Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas back to California is anything but elementary.
For reasons I won’t explain, the two don’t simply fly to Los Angeles, but instead jockey for every other conceivable mode of transportation to get to the left coast.
In addition, Jack runs into heaps of other problems.
A tireless FBI agent (Yaphet Kotto) wants to turn in “The Duke” himself, a mobster (Dennis Farina) tries to kill his former accountant and a rival bounty hunter (John Ashton) makes his best attempts to steal him away from Jack.
Gunplay, shootouts, chase sequences, and sticky situations await our heroes, but one of Jack’s biggest issues is “The Duke” absolutely does not want to go to LA.
He’d much rather disappear into the ether.
Although the skirmishes and action give the picture brash life, the real strengths of the movie are its six interesting and colorful characters, excellent writing and the rich and unexpected humor.
This film brings hilarious laughs in big and small ways, and De Niro has never been funnier.
For instance, he steals a FBI agent’s badge, and soon after, he tries it on for size by walking down a sidewalk and suddenly (and cartoonishly) turns around to flash his new law enforcement ID.
The scene completely caught me by surprise, and let me know – right away – this isn’t your average action/comedy.
Memorable comedies spend lots of time on the small details just as much as the big ones, and director Martin Brest’s film is no exception.
In another scene – while on a plane – Jack glues his picture on the aforementioned FBI agent’s ID, and a random eight-year-old boy sitting next to him confirms the newly forged identification looks good!
In other example, Mobster Jimmy Serrano (Farina) will cause you to belly laugh when he casually suggests to his lawyer, “Relax. Have a cream soda.”
He also threatens his hired goons by saying, “I’m going to stab you through the heart with a f****** pencil.”
The six leads: Farina, Kotto, Pantoliano, Ashton, Grodin and De Niro are all excellent here, and play into their respective roles with color, quick wit and with such ease.
It’s like they were all born to perform these parts.
Grodin and De Niro carry the film’s quiet moments too, and truly work seamlessly together as the mild-mannered and pragmatic accountant and the former cop who volleys between two emotions: silence and rage.
There’s nothing to rage about after watching “Midnight Run”, because I think the appropriate verb to describe your viewing experience is rave!
I love this movie!
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