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Worth A Look: 35.71%
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Pretty Crappy42.86%
Sucks: 14.29%

1 review, 8 user ratings

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10 to Midnight
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by Jack Sommersby

"Miserable 'Midnight'"
2 stars

Even for undemanding audiences, this is pretty negligible stuff.

The Charles Bronson star vehicle 10 to Midnight is a tasteless, misogynic cinematic endeavor with oodles of naked female bodies sadistically slaughtered by a sadistic sex fiend in retribution for constantly being rejected by beautiful women. The culprit is one Warren Stacey (Gene Davis), a nondescript office worker who sets up perfect alibis beforehand (like getting noticed inside a movie theatre then sneaking out through the restroom window and then back to the theatre after the killing); he's also smart enough to do his killings in the nude so as to avoid any blood traces on his clothes. And while Davis isn't a particularly good actor, he's adequate and stays in character throughout. Still, he's just not the kind of forceful villain to be paired up against someone as titular as Bronson, who plays Leo Kessler of the Los Angeles Police Department, even though Bronson himself isn't particularly forceful here, either -- he looks sleepy and lethargic and never really comes to life. So with two big negatives, the movie doesn't have a whole lot in its corner. The plotting is skimpy, with the police-procedural details fairly unremarkable; we don't derive any fun in the hunter and the hunted enjoyably squaring off and toying with one another. The dialogue is of the plain-Jane variety that spells everything out; it's stale stuff like it came right out of a can -- if there's any shade of nuance anywhere in it, it escaped me completely. Its shaking its celluloid fist at the injustice of a legal system that favors the criminals more than the cops is tired ("The way the law protects these scumbags, you'd think they were an endangered species!"). There's the hoary cliche of the veteran cop having to put up with a wet-behind-the-ears partner who's just made it into plainclothes; gosh help us, he's even so careless as to have discarded a piece of chewing gum on the ground at a fresh crime scene. The killings are way too bloody and unpleasant to have anyplace in an undemanding mainstream movie such as this; all they do is jar the tone and neuter the occasional throwaway humor (like Kessler mistaking quiche for pie in a cafeteria line) .

Of course, a lot of this would be for moot if there were generous amounts of sustained tension and suspense, but the director, J. Lee Thompson, who expertly helmed the 1962 Robert Mitchum classic Cape Fear and Bronson's career-best The Evil That Men Do, fails at generating much of either. Having come off the dreadful horror entry Happy Birthday to Me, Thompson is again making something that is more or less a slasher flick, and, again, he shows absolutely no talent for it. The murder sequences are way too drawn out, thus dissipating any chance for terror, and the attempts at scares are bobbled and fumbled like a rank amateur. When Thompson really locks onto some good material, his directorial instincts can be right on the money; he demonstrates a sure-footed instinct for how to use film language expressively -- it's the kind of quality treatment that justifies a screenplay being shot in the first place. But in 10 to Midnight (a completely irrelevant title, by the way), the camerawork is either overly frenzied (like when Warren is chasing a naked woman through some woods and the basics of spatial cohesion are trashed) or downright stodgy (like in a courtroom scene that's so pasty in the juxtaposing department it's right out of a bland TV movie). Luckily, there are three good supporting performances that help things out. As Kessler's partner, the handsome Andrew Stevens has acting chops on par with his attractiveness; he manages to hold his own alongside Bronson with uncommon tact. As Kessler's daughter who eventually becomes the new partner's love interest, the always-welcome Lisa Eilbacher (who was so good as Eddie Murphy's childhood friend in Beverly Hills Cop) is appealing and gets an agreeable rapport with Stevens -- they match up well together and exude some genuine chemistry. And as the most unscrupulous of defense lawyers, Geoffrey Lewis is rip-roaringly entertaining and practically oozes subterranean slime -- when he walks, you really do expect him to leave behind a trail of scuz. In a movie with many miscalculations, Lewis's bravado as this pathetic leach is like a breath of fresh oxygen unlike the movie that gives off the rankest of stenches.

Back in the day, this Bronson effort seemed passable; looking back on it today, it hasn't aged well at all.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8781&reviewer=327
originally posted: 06/16/11 11:48:37
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User Comments

9/16/17 morris campbell interesting sleaze 3 stars
3/31/11 David A. It's like a mystery, but you know whodunit. 4 stars
7/08/08 JM Synth A sleazy gem 4 stars
9/06/04 Sugarfoot One of Bronson's worst. 1 stars
5/04/04 John Bronson elevates this to a solid if slightly unpleasant thriller 4 stars
2/24/04 Jack Sommersby Sleazy and unpleasant, yet it delivers the goods well enough. 4 stars
2/23/04 tatum Ugly actioner with no redeeming qualities 1 stars
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  11-Mar-1983 (R)



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