This is easily the most emotionally affecting scene from Martin Brest‘s Midnight Run (’88), and generally speaking action road comedies don’t do this kind of thing at all. But Midnight Run, written by George Gallo, was different.

A violent chase-caper flick with a quippy attitude, fine. But a film of this calibre delivering this kind of emotion would be all but inconceivable today…be honest.

Robert DeNiro (as bounty hunter Jack Walsh) and Danielle DuClos (as DeNiro’s 12 year-old daughter Denise) handle the heavy lifting, making the most of non-verbal currents. But the silent-witness vibes from Charles Grodin (as white-collar criminal Jonathan Mardukas) and Wendy Phillips (as Walsh’s ex-wife) are poignant in themselves.

When Midnight Run opened 32 and 2/3 years ago somebody wrote that it was a hamburger movie that occasionally tasted like steak, but if you re-watch it (as I did a year or two ago) you’ll recall that it wasn’t that great, not really — that it was formulaic and goofy and rarely subtle.

But it was good enough to temporarily “lift all boats,” as the expression goes. Brest peaked four years later with Scent of a Woman (’92), and then he hit the rocks with Meet Joe Black (’98) and then Gigli (pronounced “Jeelie”).

Imagine how this scene might’ve played if Brest hadn’t cast DuClos or someone else on her level. Born in ’74, she was 13 when this scene was filmed. DuClos is now 46 — a crisp salute for excellent work.