Screengrab: Midnight Gold, de Niro And the Odd T-Rex Or Two

BBC 1 is showing 16 hours straight of The Games. But, says RICHARD LUTZ,  there are still good films about on the tv.

It’s accepted fact (and that’s a fact) that the Yanks do the best road movies. This week, there are two: one a stonecold classic and the abject lesson in how good ideas are ruined.

Let’s start with the classy stuff. Midnight Run (Sun; 23.00, ITV4) has Robert de Niro as an anxiety ridden tough bounty hunter handcuffing middle class Mafia accountant Charles Grodin in his New York brownstone and dragging him back to LA for the fee.

It is a witty, gritty movie. de Niro usually doesn’t do humour or he does it badly. But here in this Martin Brest movie, he is spot on. Invariably, de Niro and his prisoner become friends, soulmates and edgy confidantes as the Mafia, the FBI and a rival bounty hunter chase them across the States. It’s a buddy movie of the best kind, a road movie with an urban feel even when they’re crossing  the cornfields. It is sharp, sharp, sharp. I love Dennis Farina as the gangster- he made the production  film all his role in Vegas because he was shooting his noir tv series Crime Story there at the time.

Grodin, who you will recognise from an endless stream of daddy roles in family films, never loses his feigned  innocence as the white collar book-keeper who happened to steal Mafia loot. de Niro snaps out lines like a machine gun.

On the other hand, The Fugitive (Tues; 22.35, ITV1) is terrible. Harrison Ford re enacts the David Jason role from the ’60s tv series as the wronged doctor on the run. Ford has one tool: the Han Solo lip curl. He curls that lip for 2 hours as Tommy Lee Jones’ cop chases him  down. Maybe Ford should have had a chat with de Niro about how dramatic actors should lighten up a bit and learn how to act human instead of a lip curling replicant. Maybe Tommy Lee Jones should have caught up with Ford halfway through this boring film and slapped him in the slammer for 20 years and ended this tedious melodrama an hour earlier. Maybe Ford is a very boring limited actor.

Maybe this film has no drama, no sense of  story telling and elicits in us, in the viewers, no sense of engagement about what will happen to the people in the movie. You are intrigued by de Niro and Grodin. What will happen? Will they remain friends? Does de Niro deliver Grodin to the bounty hunter’s boss? It makes for narrative. In The Fugitive, you know damn well Ford will be absolved of the crime and he will lip curl his way into his next film


For some international class, try Before Sunset (Wed; 3am, ITV1). This is romantic wry comedy at its best. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke return as French and American lovers in Paris re meeting after ten years. It’ll make you weep and chuckle into your popcorn and make you forget the 400 metres high hurdles quarter finals.

And finally,  one of the great whacko time-travel cowboy flicks ever- The Valley of The Gwangi (Mon; 17.15, Film4). Somehow, in this c-r-a-z-y  1968 flick, dinosaurs invade the west.

Yep, cowpokes and dinosaurs. Rope in that T-Rex. Watch it with your kids.