Review: 'Midnight In The Switchgrass' (2021) Dir. Randall Emmett
This crime story based on Texas' most dangerous serial killer, with production partially delayed by COVID-19, is a blend of police drama, thriller and a game of deadly cat and mouse...
FBI Agents Rebecca Lombardi (Fox) and Karl Helter (Willis) are investigating a sex-trafficking operation out of Florida. While Helter abandons the case to preserve his career, Lombardi makes it her mission to see it through and protect those at risk.
Local Florida Department of Law Enforcement officer Bryan Crawford (Hirsch) is investigating a "Truck Stop Killer" who has been targeting young girls, murdering them and ditching them in roadside switchgrass.
The two investigations seemingly unite, with Lombardi and Helter on the trail of one man; truck driver Peter (Haas) who is their lead suspect. But when Lombardi is thrust into grave danger during their operation, Helter must track her down and apprehend Peter before it is too late...
The tagline reads "Can they stop a serial killer who can't stop himself?" The posters feature a mean and moody Bruce Willis beside Megan Fox. Two FBI agents, hunting a killer, right? Wrong. The marketing team yet again mislead audiences (now expecting this sort of move) into thinking Willis himself is a main lead alongside Fox. Emile Hirsch as a FDLE lawman is over-shadowed by Willis, as he actually has more dialogue, screentime, development and passion in the first 10 minutes of role than Willis does through the entire 90min run-time.
Covering the once golden action star Bruce Willis in this, he simply sits in a diner and in a car, grumbles about his marriage, gives Fox a few pep talks and leaves. He truly adds nothing to the story or for Fox to work with, forgotten about instantly. It's a real shame, and for an actor of his calibre resorting to so many walk on parts in so many films that are of a certain standard for a "lead billing", it's just embarrasing.Rebecca Lombardi
With Fox's FBI agent working her own sex-trafficking case, and Hirsch's police officer hunting a serial killer targeting young girls, the two unite when their investigation becomes one, and different worlds of policing come together for a very unified stance against protecting those who are overlooked in society. Fox has gone on the up in her career of late, moving into more mature roles that cater to her new attitude. Following on from 2020s Rogue and ahead of her turn in big-name comedy Big Gold Brick, Fox shows she's a decent enough lead to convey what's on offer in this tick-box crime genre offering.
Fox has the conviction in her portrayal where you feel the job means more to her than just doing a basic duty, and she isn't afraid to get her hands dirty to protect innocents.
Lukas Haas lends a very creepy, perfect portrayal of "Truck Stop Killer" Peter, a man out to clean society with his own brand of redemption in the eyes of God, and Fox's current love interest Colson Baker (aka Machine Gun Kelly), gives his all as a redneck pusher. The dirty, low-down bad guys in this really come across as dirty, low-down bad guys who represent those we could easily pass by in the street unnoticed.
The cast help elevate this film over what Willis's involvement threatens to lable it as; a cheap, direct to download affair. Action / thriller producer Randall Emmett makes his directoral debut here and doesn't go overboard in style or substance, but keeps the film tight, to the point and with the right level of broody close-up, often claustrophobic camera shots, intense diegetic noise and gloomy locations bathed in stark light and colour, all coupled with a brooding score to keep the tension at a palpable level.
Turning the tables during the second act into a real cat-and-mouse race against time helps keep the story engaging with certain roles being switched, but it does feel quite stretched out for the run-time. There is little action for those wanting a bit more of a hands-on crime thriller, and bar the odd moment of conflict between some of the leads, it relies on juxtaposition of words and motives to build bigger pictures. It could almost be a film of two halves- the first investigative drama, the second a thriller. While not brimming with moments that will grab you, it is grounded by Fox, Hirsch and Haas as the key leads who make it watchable
Ignore Bruce Willis totally, and you have a dark crime thriller that isn't as bad as his involvement makes out. By the numbers and meandering at times, but entertaining enough for fans of the genre.
'Midnight In The Switchgrass' is a co-production between Emmett Furla Oasis Films, The Pimienta Film Co., BondIt Media Capital and Verdi Productions