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How I wish I could say this sounds like a good idea. Not long ago, when a list of possible Robert De Niro projects was released, we got the first indications that a sequel to Midnight Run might be happening.

Now the sequel really seems to be moving forward, as Universal has hired a screenwriter to come up with a script.

Deadline Hollywood (on a roll today) has news of the sequel, but not many details. De Niro will return as cop turned bounty hunter Jack Walsh while Charles Grodin, who played the accountant De Niro’s character was charged with bringing to LA in the original film, will not. Details on the plot are thin, and basically boil down to ‘Walsh will have to bring in a new fugitive.’

Tim Dowling is the writer tapped by the studio; he’s credited with Role Models and the story for George Lucas in Love. No director is set at this point.

I’m still having a hard time with this. Midnight Run was one of those rare combinations where everything just works. The chemistry between De Niro and Grodin, a solid and smart script by George Gallo and ideally understated direction by Martin Brest. All those elements came together perfectly to make a film that is dramatic and massively entertaining without being too flashy or desperate to please.

Midnight Run feels like the kind of movie that doesn’t get made any more, even though when you look back twenty or thirty years you realize movies like this only barely got made then, too. Can that lightning strike twice? Seems really unlikely, and not just because De Niro’s impressive acting turns are few and far between of late. Who will co-star? Can the script nail the blend of character and comedy, and will the director be able to keep it on an even keel? So many variables. A set of TV follow-ups to the original film suggest it’s no easy task to balance them all.

(And what supporting lineup do you get to replace Yaphet Kotto, Philip Baker Hall, John Ashton, Joe Pantoliano and Dennis Farina?)

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