In MIDNIGHT IN THE SWITCHGRASS, we learn a serial killer is killing young vulnerable women in Pensacola, Florida and it’s up to a cop, Byron Crawford (Emile Hirsch), and FBI agents Rebecca Lombardi (Megan Fox) and Karl Helter (Bruce Willis) to stop him.
MIDNIGHT IN THE SWITCHGRASS is a particularly uninspired serial killer film that seems to take elements of films like The Silence of the Lambs, Kiss The Girls, and your average “Criminal Minds” episode to tell a story that doesn’t have anything new to say about serial murder, cops, FBI agents or anything else. You quite literally have the door knock fake-out from Silence, the captive woman starts talking to the other captive woman and giving them orders along with the concept of killing the current captive to make way for the new one from Kiss The Girls. Like Silence, you find out who the serial killer is pretty quickly during the run time, so there’s not really any of the promised cat and mouse games in this movie either.
The Machine Gun Kelly/Colson Baker subplot seems to exist only to show Fox in sexy seductive mode, show her being an FBI agent badass, and to shoehorn a famous rapper into the cast. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have any chemistry romantically or as adversaries. Yes, I know that they are a couple in real life, but you couldn’t tell that from watching their scenes together. Nothing about the scene is dangerous or alluring, which is hard to do when you’ve got Megan Fox playing the temptress. They’ve got her in a fantasy get-up that a sex worker in a Florida no-tell would be unlikely to be wearing. The fight scene is unconvincing and so is Willis’ concerned partner act. As it happens, none of the lead actors are particularly convincing, with the exception of Lukas Haas, and I had real difficulty recalling their character names because none of the principal actors bothered to create characters for the film. They are just Emile Hirsch, looking confused or irritated, Megan Fox, holding her own but without much to work with, and Bruce Willis, mostly coasting on his presence, but not really showing anything that could make you relate to him.
Casting Lukas Haas against type was really the best idea that the filmmakers had. He does a fully decent job of playing a family man, who is also a vicious killer, even though he too wasn’t given much to work with. Other standouts include Caitlin Carmicheal (Tracey) and Sistine Stallone (Heather), and Bobbie Shaw Chance (Barbara). Full disclosure: I am a former student, employee, and friend of Bobbie Shaw Chance, but I didn’t recognize her in her role. It wasn’t until I went through the cast list that I saw who played the character that I realized it was her, which means that she did a really good job.
One thing that did bother me was the attitude of the characters in the script, the cops and FBI agents, towards the possibly trafficked women and girls as prostitutes. I know that it’s likely to be the most realistic part of the plot, but the inherent disrespect towards these victims really seemed unpleasant and unneeded, especially since the main characters are supposed to really care about stopping the murders. None of them seem to be emotionally invested in “the girls” or their plight and the victims are afforded only a modicum of dignity as human beings.
The script and the rest of the work in the film are adequate. The film really never rises above basic competence, aside from the acting standouts, at any point. Randall Emmett directed this film and Alan Horsnail wrote it, his feature screenwriting debut, without much in the way of inspiration. There’s something that’s actually worse about a film that is merely competent. I could get more enthused about a film that took more chances and failed, but this film is simply by the numbers on most things. It would fit in pretty well as a subpar “Criminal Minds” or “CSI” episode. It’s not terribly bad, but it’s not really good either. Unless you are a serial killer film completist or a big fan of Lukas Haas, I can’t really recommend this. The major feeling that I had while watching MIDNIGHT IN THE SWITCHGRASS was tedium.
MIDNIGHT IN THE SWITCHGRASS is now available in Theaters, On Demand, Digital, and is on Blu-ray and DVD.
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