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Midnight Run (1988)

Midnight Run (1988) is an action comedy in which an ex-police officer turned bounty hunter, Jack Walsh, played by Robert De Niro, tracks down a mob accountant, Jonathan 'The Duke' Mardukas, played by Charles Grodin, in order to return him from New York City to Los Angeles. What is meant to be an easy job turns into a cross-country chase as the pair are pursued by both the FBI and the mob. 

Tags: case study, archive

When the BBFC first examined the film, in July 1988, the examiners considered the comedy, violence and tone of the film to be suitable at 15. However, they did pause over the frequency of strong language, totalling around 120 uses of 'f**k'. One examiner's report describes how, although the strong language is frequent, it is not aggressive and, within a film 'of wit... perfectly aimed at the large audience a '15' would give it', the language should be allowed at the 15 rating. The film was passed 15 without cuts. But there was one further concern around sight of lock picking in two sequences and it was noted that the technique might be a problem on video where the scenes could be replayed and viewed in more detail.

When Midnight Run was submitted for classification on video in March 1989 there was some debate as to whether there was sufficient useful detail in the lock picking scenes for the moments to be a problem. However, the BBFC's Director at the time, James Ferman, was not inclined to take any chances and the potential instructional detail was removed. Such action was consistent with concerns of the time and reflect the BBFC's special regard for viewing in the home, including the ability to pause and replay scenes which is not possible when viewing a film at a cinema

Furthermore, although examiners still considered Midnight Run to be suitable at 15, on balance James Ferman considered the frequency of strong language to be better placed at 18 on video, noting that it 'would be virtually unplayable on British TV'. Consequently, Midnight Run was classified 18 on video in May 1989 with two cuts.

Midnight Run was submitted again to the BBFC for DVD release in 2000 with the previous cuts to lock picking having been restored. It was proposed by the examiner that the film should now be passed uncut for home entertainment release.  It was noted that more recent police advice was that it was impossible to pick a modern lock without more sophisticated equipment than is deployed in the film. Maintaining the existing 18 rating meant there was no likely encouragement to children to attempt such behaviour. With the frequency of strong language as well, there was no compelling argument to down rate the film to the original theatrical 15. In May 2000 it was rated 18 without cuts.
 

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