Robert De Niro in Midnight Run

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

Vitals

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh, tough bounty hunter

New York to Los Angeles, Fall 1987

Film: Midnight Run
Release Date: July 20, 1988
Director: Martin Brest
Costume Designer: Gloria Gresham

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

“This is an easy gig, it’s a midnight run for chrissakes!”

Bounty hunter Jack Walsh has withstood plenty of action and abuse tracking down fugitives for bail bondsman Eddie Moscone (Joe Pantoliano), but the inherent danger of bringing in Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin), an accountant in the crosshairs of the Mafia, has Jack demanding $100,000 for the job. A pro, Jack has an easy enough time finding the Duke in New York, but bringing him back to L.A. and his hundred-grand payday brings a fresh set of challenges between the Duke’s reluctance to fly, the interference of the FBI, a rival bounty hunter sabotaging him at each step, and—oh!—a couple of deadly doofuses sent by the mob to whack the Duke… and anyone who gets in their way.

“I can see this is gonna be some fuckin’ trip, boy,” Jack bemoans after a dinner with the prickly Duke.

Having built his career on serious roles in movies like The Godfather Part IITaxi DriverRaging Bull, and most recently The Untouchables, Robert De Niro was looking for a comedic change of pace and found in an action comedy being developed by Martin Brest and George Gallo. While De Niro had played light before (i.e. The King of Comedy), Midnight Run would be his first straight comedic role, enhanced by his buddy dynamic with Charles Grodin as the Duke. “The way Chuck Grodin is, it worked,” De Niro later explained to The Playlist. “His character was irritating and Chuck knew how to do that… I felt like that was a good way to go.”

Though he still had GoodfellasCape FearHeat, and more ahead of him, Midnight Run broke the comedic mold for De Niro to explore a more comedic side best seen in movies like Jackie BrownWag the Dog, and Meet the Parents.

Looks like I’m walkin’.

What’d He Wear?

Jack Walsh dresses in one of my favorite screen examples of a hard-wearing, practical outfit for traveling across the country by plane, train, and automobile. In addition to Midnight Run, 1988 also saw the release of Rain Man, in which Tom Cruise cycles through a wardrobe of fashionable yuppie-wear while driving Dustin Hoffman through the U.S. Cruise may look stylish for the ’80s, but De Niro looks timeless and road-ready in his rugged leather jacket, work shirt, and dark jeans.

“I see you’re still spendin’ all your money on clothes,” jokes Mafia boss Jimmy Serrano (Dennis Farina), resplendent in his off-white suit as opposed to Jack’s dirty, road-worn rags. Of course, it was only four days earlier when Serrano’s henchman Joey (Robert Miranda) couldn’t stop himself from complimenting Jack’s wardrobe: “That’s a nice jacket! What is it, goatskin?”

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

Several days, states, and shootouts after his henchman had first complimented Jack Walsh’s jacket, Jimmy Serrano is less than impressed with the state of Jack’s clothing.

Many of Robert De Niro’s screen-worn costumes, accessories, and effects are now databased in the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Among these wares are many pieces from Midnight Run, including three leather jackets—all described as black—as well as black jeans, a black belt, and sneakers.

Jack’s black leather jacket blends styling points of the classic A-2 flight jacket with the sensibilities of a thigh-length car coat. The versatile, rugged jacket looks presentable yet tough with a few extra pockets for storing sunglasses, cigarettes, pilfered badges, and canceled credit cards, with the extra length coming in handy when it needs to double as a blanket.

The A-2 affectations are primarily seen around the neck and upper chest, such as the concealed snaps keeping the shirt-style point collar in place, the fly over the front zip, and the shoulder straps (epaulettes) sewn in place at the neck and shoulders with X-stitched patches. The sleeves have square-ended cuffs that also each close with a single snap.

The front of the jacket is detailed with two chest pockets and two hip pockets, each closed with a single concealed snap on a squared flap with additional “hand-warmer” pockets accessed behind those on the hips. A swelled horizontal yoke crosses the upper back between the armholes, with a vertical seam down the center to the bottom, where there are no vents.

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

Some people just don’t like helicopters.

For a man who puts function over form, the khaki work shirt serves Jack well for his rough days on the road with the Duke. Like the Dickies work shirts often worn by security guards, janitors, and other uniformed workers, the shirt’s construction is likely a blend of cotton and polyester. The khaki-toned four-hole plastic buttons fasten up a plain “French placket” front, with Jack leaving the top button undone at the point collar. The squared patch pockets on the chest each have a single-button pointed flap to close, and the cuffs close through a single button as well.

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

Leather jacket and work shirt: timeless. Pay phone: not so much.

Even Jack’s white undershirt has a pocket, bringing his grand total of pockets up to 14 (including six on the jacket, two on his work shirt, and five on his jeans), including any on the inside of his jacket.

This short-sleeved cotton T-shirt has a full crew neck that remains visible—and thus gets increasingly sullied—under the open-neck work shirt.

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

As Jack wires his undershirt before his confrontation with Serrano, we see just how much dirt the shirt has accumulated during his days with the Duke.

Jack’s black jeans unite his outfit into something resembling a uniform while also concealing dirt, grime, and whatever else he may encounter during days of traveling without the chance to change or significantly wash up. The lack of tags, tabs, or identifiable stitching prevents us from identifying his jeans as any of the big three American denim purveyors (Lee, Levi’s, and Wrangler), though they’re styled with the traditional five-pocket layout of two back patch pockets, two front pockets, and a coin pocket slotted on the right, all detailed with copper rivets in the corners.

Jack holds up his jeans with a black leather belt that closes through a silver-toned single-prong buckle. (The Harry Ransom Center includes a Bianchi belt-clip holster supposedly worn by De Niro in Midnight Run, but I don’t believe we ever see this clearly on screen.)

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

Stranded in the middle of Arizona, a manacled Duke may have felt a bit taunted by Jack’s ability to stretch out his arms like that.

Thanks to the Harry Ransom Center database, Jack’s all-black leather athletic shoes can be conclusively identified as Avia sneakers, worn with black socks.

Avia founder Jerry Stubblefield reportedly conceptualized the name for his new shoes while on a flight, selecting a variation on “avis”, the Latin word for “bird”. Launched in 1979 by Jerry and his son Don, Avia revolutionized athletic footwear for men and women throughout the following decade and remains in production today as a subsidiary of Sequential Brands Group.

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

Jack Walsh puts his whole body into hot-wiring.

Jack constantly brings his steel wristwatch to his ear to see if it’s ticking, prompting the Duke to comment: “You should get yourself a new watch.”

Indeed, the timepiece looks like it’s seen better days with its plain, round off-white dial under the aged crystal, secured to his left wrist via a silver-toned expansion band, though Jack later reveals that he keeps the battered watch as it was the first gift he ever received from his now ex-wife Gail, who had set it a half-hour ahead to battle his chronic lateness. At the end, Jack gives the watch to the Duke as “something to remember our adventure by.”

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

Jack uses his flight from L.A. to NYC to perfect his commandeered identity as agent Alonzo Mosely.

When Jack gets pulled into the FBI car, head agent Alonzo Mosely (Yaphet Kotto) pulls Jack’s sunglasses from his face, prompting Jack to look around at the shaded sets of eyes staring back at him and quip: “Can I ask you something? These sunglasses, they’re really nice.. are they government issue or do all you guys go, like, to the same store to get ’em?”

In exchange for purloining Mosley’s identity via a slyly swiped badge, Jack rechristens him “Agent Foster Grant” in reference to the American manufacturer then famous for its celebrity-based “who’s that behind those Foster Grants?” ad campaigns.

A no-frills guy like Jack Walsh probably wouldn’t care if he’s wearing the same glasses as Raquel Welch, but his Carrera 5547 sunglasses are still consistent with ’80s eyewear trends as this sporty variant of classic aviator frames had emerged over the previous decade. Jack’s sunglasses have tortoise-toned matte “Optyl” plastic frames, brown gradient-tinted photochromic lenses, and white arms detailed with brown stripes broken up by “CARRERA” branding at the temples.

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

The Midnight Run prologue establishes Jack Walsh’s character and costume as he wears the same jacket, jeans, and sneakers, only swapping out the work shirt for a heathered gray cotton crew-neck sweatshirt with long sleeves that are starting to fray at the cuffs.

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

After taking on the Duke’s case for Eddie, Jack dresses up a bit for his trip to the police station to conduct more research on his new subject. He wears a white poplin off-the-rack dress shirt, detailed with a semi-spread collar, front placket, breast pocket, and single-button cuffs. He also leaves the black jeans at home, now dressed in a pair of dark gray flat front slacks with wide belt loops, side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms.

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

The Gun

Jack Walsh’s main sidearm is a third generation Colt Detective Special, a modernized variant of the classic “belly gun” that Colt introduced in 1927. When the Detective Special was debuted, this snub-nosed revolver was hailed by both sides of the law for its easy concealment and ability to carry six rounds of the .38 Special police cartridge.

The Detective Special would remain in constant production over the next sixty years, though Colt innovated updates to the venerable belly gun’s design to stay competitive in the modernized weapons market. The “Third Series” variant introduced in 1973 marked the most substantial cosmetic change in the Detective Special’s half-century history, adding a shroud under the barrel to protect the ejector rod and transitioning to full-ramp front sights.

By the 1980s, law enforcement was increasingly transitioning from six-round service revolvers to high-capacity semi-automatic pistols. Colt ended production of the Detective Special in 1986, reviving it only briefly for a Fourth Series run in the ’90s.

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

One of the pistols that marked the end of the wheelgun’s reign in the police market was the nine-millimeter Beretta 92-series, an Italian-made handgun introduced in the mid-1970s evolved from the aging Beretta M1951 design.

As Beretta improved the 92’s design into the following decade, the rest of the world took notice. It was the M9 variant of the Beretta 92F that replaced the venerable M1911 after more than sixty years as the American military’s iconic service pistol, and 92-series pistols carried by Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson in Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, respectively, signaled the modern police embrace of the high-powered, high-capacity semi-automatic pistol over older revolvers like the Detective Special.

Interestingly, Jack’s sworn rival bounty hunter Marvin Dorfler (John Ashton) arms himself with a set of Beretta 92SB pistols, possibly chosen to establish Marvin’s ambitions at unseating the revolver-carrying Jack as a top bounty hunter in the world of Midnight Run.

Developed for U.S. Air Force trials in the early 1980s, the 92SB was introduced a little earlier than the more recognizable 92F and 92FS, but it marked a transition to the modernized version with its conveniently placed magazine release (next to the trigger guard rather than at the base of the grips as on earlier models), ambidextrous safety levers, and a firing pin block (signified by the “B” in the model name.) Not yet standardized for combat like the later 92-series, the Beretta 92SB pistols were still commonly rigged with smooth wooden grip panels detailed with gold medallions. Until the later development of the 96 and 98 variants, all Beretta 92-series pistols were chambered for the universal 9×19 mm Parabellum cartridge.

Jack ends up taking both of Marvin’s 92SB pistols from him; the first, a nickel-plated model, is misplaced during their fight aboard the train. Marvin’s second 92SB, finished in standard blue steel, becomes Jack’s weapon of choice after he takes it from him to conduct battle against the mobsters in the helicopter.

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

Jack takes careful aim with Marvin’s Beretta. If you’re going to try to shoot down a helicopter with a handgun, it’s going to take patient diligence.

How to Get the Look

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

Jack Walsh dresses for the road in a hard-wearing khaki work shirt, black jeans, and a multi-pocket leather jacket that serves as both baggage and blanket as needed.

  • Black goatskin leather car coat with A-2 style snap-down collar, shoulder straps/epaulettes, zip-up fly front, four snap-flapped pockets, and single-snap squared cuffs
  • Khaki poly/cotton work shirt with point collar, plain front, two button-flapped chest pockets, and single-button cuffs
  • White cotton crew-neck short-sleeve “pocket T” undershirt
  • Black cotton denim five-pocket jeans
  • Black leather belt with silver-toned single-prong buckle
  • Black leather Avia sneakers
  • Black socks
  • Tortoise matte-framed sport aviator sunglasses with brown gradient lenses and white arms
  • Steel wristwatch with round off-white dial and steel expanding bracelet

Magnoli Clothiers produces a replica, the Deniro Jacket, accurately described as “a hybrid of the classic A-2 bomber and longer car coat.”

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie.

The Quote

Because you’re a fucking criminal and you deserve to go where you’re going and I’m gonna take you there, and if I hear any more shit outta you I’m gonna fucking bust your head and I’ll put you back in that fucking hole and I’m gonna stick your head in the fucking toilet bowl and I’m gonna make it stay there.

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