Review by Sean Boelman
It’s hardly unexpected that a partnership between one of the most reliable producers and one of the most frequent stars in the straight-to-VOD thriller market is trash, but Midnight in the Switchgrass isn’t entirely incompetent. Needlessly convoluted yet entirely predictable, Randall Emmett’s directorial debut is only impressive in how unimpressive it is.
The film follows an FBI agent and a Florida state policeman who team up to do an undercover sting investigating a string of murders, pitting them against a serial killer targeting women. It’s the type of crime thriller that entices viewers with a couple B-list stars and a generic story that is just different enough to hopefully earn the rental fee over the dozens of other options you have.
Alan Horsnail’s script seems to think it’s pretty smart, but in reality, it’s a very simple story weighed down by layer upon layer of contrivances. Either the movie doesn’t trust the audience to come to their own conclusions, or it thinks that they are dumb enough to find any of these fundamental genre beats surprising, but either way, it’s nearly insulting.
Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the film is that it says nothing about the very real issue of human trafficking in Florida. To make a movie this shallow that utilizes that as a plot point is borderline offensive, and to add insult to injury, it’s not even particularly entertaining in its attempts to be gritty and edgy.
All of the characters are very blandly-written, with motivations that are about as surface-level as they come. The lead FBI agent owes so much to the scores of other, better crime films with female protagonists. Think Clarice Starling but without anything to make the character memorable, and that’s what you have here.
As is the case with so many movies that are seemingly made to fill the void of content rather than for genuine consumption, the cast feels as if it was assembled by an algorithm to attract as much money as possible with minimal effort. Megan Fox, Emile Hirsch, and especially Bruce Willis are all phoning in their performances, with Lukas Haas being the only character that puts in anything resembling effort.
On a technical level, the film doesn’t look as cheap as a lot of its peers. This may be because of Emmett’s profound experience as a producer (he even worked on The Irishman, although he did not receive the Academy Award nomination without the p.g.a mark), but it isn’t atrociously dull to look at, which is certainly something that’s going for it.
Midnight in the Switchgrass isn’t unwatchable, but it’s a movie that seems designed to meet the lowest common denominator in nearly every regard. Ultimately, you’ve probably seen plenty of films like this, and will undoubtedly see plenty more.
Midnight in the Switchgrass is now in theaters and on VOD.