PLOT: An FBI agent (Megan Fox) and a Pensacola cop (Emile Hirsch) team up to bring a serial killer preying on young girls to justice.
REVIEW: MIDNIGHT IN THE SWITCHGRASS marks the directing debut of Randall Emmett, who, among others, produced The Irishman, 2 Guns, and SIlence. He also runs Emmett/Furla Oasis Films, known for its never-ending series of low-budget DTV actioners, often starring folks like Bruce Willis in small supporting roles despite their prominent top-billing (here’s an interesting feature on them).
That tradition carries over to Midnight in the Switchgrass, with Willis’ name splashed all over the trailers and posters, even though he’s only got a handful of scenes (most of which feature him sitting) and minimal effect on the plot. You’ve no doubt seen a ton of these show up on streaming channels – movies like First Kill, The Prince, Hard Kill, Trauma Center, Out of Death, etc. However, the movie also clearly had a bigger budget and loftier artistic intentions than a typical EFO product. It is loosely based on the exploits of a real-life serial killer called “The Truck Stop Killer.”
While Willis is mostly checked out here, Midnight in the Switchgrass does benefit from one top-billed star who showed up with her A-game in tow: Megan Fox. While she’s not as ultra-famous as she once was, one can’t help but notice in recent years how much Fox’s has been honing her skill as an actress. She made a surprisingly effective action heroine in Rogue and put everything she has into her role as a dogged FBI agent addicted to the rush. While the film itself is relatively weak, she’s committed enough here that I imagine that she might change people’s opinions of her with the right material.
Too bad that the rest of the movie is so middling. Emile Hirsch does his best as the worn-out cop trying to piece together the case, but he seems too young and fresh-faced for the role. Scenes depicting his home-life are unintentionally funny as Emmett turns up the melodrama to eleven and should have been left on the cutting room floor. I did, however, like Machine Gun Kelly in his small role as a pimp who has a violent encounter with Fox, while Lucas Haas is refreshingly low-key and believable as the villain.
One problem with Midnight in the Switchgrass is that narratively it’s all over the place. For a procedural, there’s precious little actual investigating, focusing on the psychology of all involved, but Michael Mann, this is not. This is especially driven home by the ponderous opening narration by Hirsch, which short-circuits the movie almost before it even begins. The ending also falls flat, with a race-against-time aspect falling to take the suspense up a notch.
Indeed, this is a pretty mixed bag all around, but some of the performances here are good enough that you can tell Emmett had more in mind than churning out a standard DTV thriller. Perhaps his next one will fare better, but at least he pulled together a good cast (despite a paycheck-collecting Bruce Willis) and a good DP in Duane Manwiller with Puerto Rico standing in for the Florida panhandle.