Midnight Run

Weekend Roundtable: Odd Couples

The Hobbs & Shaw movie teams up a pair of mismatched partners who may bicker but actually kind of like each other deep down. Believe it or not, other movies have tried this innovative formula before! Here are some of our favorites.

We previously did a Roundtable specifically about buddy-cop movies and are trying not to repeat ourselves here, which is pretty much the only reason you won’t find Lethal Weapon on this list.

David Krauss

As soon as this topic got circulated around, the first movie I thought of was Midnight Run. The fast-paced, funny, highly enjoyable 1988 action comedy about a bounty hunter (Robert De Niro) hired by a bail bondsman (Joe Pantoliano) to bring in an on-the-lam Mafia accountant and embezzler (Charles Grodin) before a midnight deadline follows much the same formula as a romantic comedy. The difference here, of course, is that the two lead characters are men.

Much like the classic Clark Gable/Claudette Colbert road picture It Happened One Night, the two guys loathe each at first sight. They incessantly bicker and snipe due to their oil-and-water personalities. De Niro is a tough, street-wise ex-cop and Grodin is a whiny, annoying nag. Initially (and predictably), familiarity breeds contempt, but as the pair make their madcap dash across the country, their respective veneers begin to crack and an unlikely bromance develops.

Chemistry is the key ingredient here, and De Niro and Grodin (who was quite a likable actor until he became a pompous cable TV talk-show host after the O.J. Simpson trial in the mid-1990s) have it in spades. Their repartee is first-rate, and at the time of the picture’s release, it was a big treat – and a rarity – to see De Niro play comedy. Top-notch performances, smart dialogue, and breakneck pacing, care of director Martin Brest (who helped create the buddy-action genre with Beverly Hills Cop a few years before and whose career would crash and burn 15 years later with the disastrous Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez flick Gigli) all combine to make Midnight Run one of the best films in its class.

Jason Gorber

How about Swiss Army Man, where a guy reluctantly befriends a farting corpse and the two come to terms with their circumstance? One of the best movies of the decade, this wild film by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert has impeccable performances by Paul Dano and Daniel Ratcliffe, and takes audiences on a hell of a ride, upending more than a few odd couple tropes along the way.

Deirdre Crimmins

A bit more of a frenemy flick than a buddy comedy, Death Becomes Her has to be one of my favorite examples on an on-screen duo begrudgingly working together toward a common goal. In the case of Mad and Hel (Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn), that common goal is revenge and avoiding decay. Though the two can barely stand to be in the same room with one another, they have a lifelong competitive streak and can’t quite seem to ever shake each other away. At some basic, evolutionary level they must know that while they bring out the worst in each other, they sometimes also bring out the best, and no one else would ever put up with their crap for the rest of time. Their incompatibility, however, comes from their similarity. They’re both too darn similar to one another. Heck, they even both fall for the same man. There’s no way to say how the end comes for them, but odds are that they’ll be bickering the entire way there.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Detective Tom Beck is knee-deep in a murder investigation that doesn’t make a lick of sense. Since when does a guy with a spotless criminal record steal a Ferrari, rob a bank, and gun down a whole bunch of the folks inside? To add insult to injury, in strolls Special Agent Lloyd Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlan).

The Hidden treats you to all the posturing and bickering you’d expect whenever an FBI agent and a big city cop cross paths, especially since they have such wildly different personalities. Beck is a family man with a fiery temper, while Gallagher… whew. He’s bright and insightful, but to look at the awkward way he behaves and the nonsensical demands he makes, you’d think the guy was from another planet or something.

And that’s because he is.

Partners don’t get much more mismatched than down-to-earth cop and extraterrestrial-parasite-in-a-meat-suit. Sure, it takes a while for the two to really warm to one another. Heck, Beck tosses Gallagher in the clink at one point. Still, before you can say “Ras Alhague,” they’re the best of friends, teaming up to stop a thrill-seeking, body-hopping alien from world domination.

I’ll admit that my first instinct was to write about Midnight Run, but given that other movie’s disappointing lack of flamethrowers, slug-like aliens, and stripper warriors, I’m sure you can understand my change of heart.

Josh Zyber

Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple itself seems a little on-the-nose for this topic, doesn’t it?

Couples don’t get much odder than a world-weary, down-on-his-luck 1940s P.I. and a zany cartoon rabbit. Set in a bizarre world where regular humans and ink-and-paint “toons” live side-by-side, Robert Zemeckis’ ingenious Who Framed Roger Rabbit takes all the familiar tropes of the mismatched buddy formula to their craziest and silliest extremes. As much as the gruff and impatient Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) really can’t stand the hyperactive Roger (voiced by Charles Fleischer) or his wacky antics, the two become grudging friends as they investigate a noirish case involving murder, blackmail, and overzealous real estate development. The film is inventive, hilarious, and amazing.

Your Turn

What are your favorite movie odd couples?


  1. Chris B

    Midnight Run is an absolute institution in my family and is quoted on probably a weekly basis.

    I watched the recently released The Hitman’s Bodyguard a few weeks back and although it’s completely derivative of better movies I enjoyed it for what it was.

    Ryan Reynolds is charming as always, Samuel L. Jackson drops a record number of F-bombs and Elodie Yung is absolutely beautiful as the love interest. It’s far from a great movie but I found enjoyable in an overly-familiar comfort food-kinda way. Plus there’s a pretty incredible action sequence midway through set amongst the canals in Amsterdam, worth watching for it alone.

    It’s a movie to throw on on a Sunday afternoon to squeeze the last bit of enjoyment out of a fleeting weekend before returning to the drudgery of work on Monday morning.

  2. Bolo

    ‘The Good, The Bad & The Ugly’ brings several combinations of bickering, begrudging partnerships to the screen with three stellar performances. I don’t need to tell you all this film is a classic.

  3. Charles Contreras

    I had to wrack my brain over this when I just remembered Soul Men, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac as a pair of soul singers who drive cross country to the Apollo Theater to perform in a tribute show for their lead singer who passed away. It’s one of the funniest movies that I have the pleasure of owning. Just watching these two try not to kill each other as they’re trying to get back into practice again on the road is hysterical. I may have to watch this gem this weekend!

  4. theHDphantom

    My favourite would probably be Chris Makepeace and Adam Baldwin from My Bodyguard. Two excellently written characters who played off each other extremely well.

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