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Needing the One You Hate: Frenemies from Casablanca to The Eagle

Posted January 07, 2011 to photo album "Needing the One You Hate: Frenemies from Casablanca to The Eagle"

Esca, the Celtic Slave, and Aquila, the Roman master, may appear an unlikely team in The Eagle, but the plot of enemies turned friends is a classic cinematic trope.

Slide 1: Roman/Celt
Slide 2: Apolitical/Collaborator | Casablanca (1942)
Slide 3: The Heiress/the Reporter | It Happened One Night (1934)
Slide 4: Sober/Drunk | The African Queen (1951)
Slide 5: Black/White | The Defiant Ones (1958)
Slide 6: Old/Young | True Grit (1969)
Slide 7: Cop/Crook | 48 Hours (1982)
Slide 8: Prisoner/Keeper | Midnight Run (1988)
Slide 9: Hippie/Straight Dude | Flashback (1990)
Slide 10: Finn/Russian | The Cuckoo (2002)
Slide 11: Old Man/Korean Kid | Gran Torino (2008)
Slide 8: Prisoner/Keeper | Midnight Run (1988)

Slide 8: Prisoner/Keeper | Midnight Run (1988)

The comedy of opposites is exploited in the very casting of Martin Brest’s 1988 comedy thriller Midnight Run. Robert De Niro, who rose to fame playing gangsters and psychopaths, was cast as the law––bounty hunter Jack Walsh. Charles Grodin, who was Hollywood go-to milquetoast, was picked to play the criminal, Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas, a sticky-fingered accountant who has embezzled $15 from a Las Vegas gangster. Catching Mardukas proves the easy part; Walsh’s real challenge is transporting him from New York to Los Angeles. In addition to Mardukas’ neurotic whims (for example, he refuses to fly), Walsh must also deal with the mob (who wants Mardukas dead) and a fellow bounty hunter (who wants Mardukas for himself). Although there is a major personality clash between the tough Walsh and the weaselly Mardukas, they just about make it to the end of their journey without being caught – or killing each other – and even manage to find some common ground. “Along the way, of course, they discover that, despite their opposite natures, they really do like and respect one another,” wrote Roger Ebert of De Niro and Grodin's characters. “This sounds like a formula, and it is a formula. But Midnight Run is not a formula movie, because the writing and acting make these two characters into specific, quirky individuals whose relationship becomes more interesting even as the chase grows more predictable. …It's rare for a thriller to end with a scene of genuinely moving intimacy, but this one does, and it earns it.”