Midnight in the Switchgrass : Film Review
Midnight in the Switchgrass It is not a serious movie, although the record line may make you believe otherwise. Randall Emmett’s ill-plotted and agonizing directorial debut follows a multi-agency (FBI and local law enforcement) investigation into the abduction and brutal murders of young women in Pensacola, Florida, a sultry seaside city. The film, which bills itself as a crime, a thriller, and a mystery, doesn’t come close to meeting even the lowest expectations; He does not take his characters seriously or commit to his superficial attempt at topicality.
Written by Alan Horsnail, Midnight in the Switchgrass it could easily, for the reasons mentioned above, be dismissed as a failure, a job that receives little attention. But formulaic companies like these, lacking in quality writing or emotional intensity, reveal the dependence of American culture on lazy tropes about women, sexual violence, and law enforcement. Examining these films offers an opportunity to think about which disturbing symbols are reinforced in genre narratives. Even if the point of these movies is to revel in pulpy, sweaty atmosphere and action, rather than substance, shows like HBO’s. Easttown Mare provide a lesson on how to carefully deal with real-life problems without sacrificing the perks of the genre.
Midnight in the Switchgrass
The bottom line
A mediocre thriller riddled with tired tropes.
Midnight in the Switchgrass The problems start with the intention: you don’t really know what kind of movie you want to be. The uneven direction, which oscillates between the brooding and brooding study of procedural detectives and the melodramatic study of the characters, makes you feel like you’re watching two different, equally unsatisfying movies. While the visuals are acceptable, it’s hard to appreciate them while trying to make sense of the plot and keep up with competing stories.
Arial shots of Pensacola, followed by a voiceover from Officer Byron Crawford (Emile Hirsch), kick off. “Lions are born knowing they are predators, antelopes understand that they are prey, humans are the only creatures on Earth that are given a choice,” he says. The suggestion, about the role of individual responsibility in determining destiny, feels out of place in a film apparently concerned with the livelihoods of the city’s most vulnerable population.
Women disappear almost every day in this small West Florida town. The victims fit similar profiles: young, white, and usually sex workers. At the beginning of the film, a man comes across a lifeless body, randomly discarded in a random field. The police appear and discover that she is one of the women who recently disappeared. In the next scene, the killer’s next target, Tracey Lee (Caitlin Carmichael), stumbles out of a motel room and through a gas station, where a trucker tries to board her. She fights back before another trucker, Peter (Lukas Haas), saves her life. It’s clear from the dramatic music, his stealthy eyes, and the slow, menacing camera movement that Peter can’t be trusted either.
Sitting in a car, watching this drunken young woman walk the streets, is FBI agent Karl Helter (Bruce Willis). Despite his proximity and his promise to save women like Tracey, he doesn’t intervene. Instead, he radioed to his partner Rebecca Lombardo (Megan Fox), who is waiting for a criminal in the same motel from which the young woman left. The person who ends up breaking into your dingy, dimly lit room is Calvin (Colson Baker AKA Machine Gun Kelly), a low-level pimp. He’s not the man she expected, and his scene, filled with half-hearted attempts to physically fight and verbally skewer each other, doesn’t accomplish much in terms of plot or character development. It’s also not particularly fun to watch.
With such a star-studded lineup, one could reasonably expect a juicy performance, but some of the performances have phone call quality, as if the actors don’t want to be there. (Surprisingly, one of the most consistent and inverted spins comes from Machine Gun Kelley.)
In another part of town, Detective Crawford sits in the office of Lieutenant Gilbright (Donovan Carter), who informs him that he is, for reasons that were never clarified, in the case of missing young women. Their disjointed and unconvincing exchange leaves Crawford dejected. When he comes out, he drops this basic line: “You know no one has stood up for those girls, and I can’t seem to reconcile with that anymore.”
Midnight in the Switchgrass it does not respect the victims or survivors who motivate its protagonists. They are contrasts for agents and detectives, shorthand to demonstrate their undeserved bravery and imbue their lives with purpose. The film is peppered with possible noble lines like Crawford’s, sentiments that herald a particular kind of politics or moral virtue rather than illustrate or develop the characters’ particular humanity.
The few attempts to develop personalities are so superficial that they are not worth it. When Agent Lombardo meets Tracey’s sister, Heather (Sistine Stallone), the two have a conversation that one would think would be sincere, or would answer critical questions about the relationship between Heather and Tracey or Lombardo’s motivations. Instead, it’s superficial, managing to reveal nothing about any of the characters.
It’s a shame Lombardo, a determined and hotheaded FBI agent who has been hunting this killer for a long time, doesn’t have enough of a backstory. Indeed, Midnight in the Switchgrass puts more effort into completing his male characters: Crawford struggles to balance his commitments to his wife and son with his obsession with the case; Helter spends his few on-screen moments talking about his possible divorce and weighing the toll Lombardo’s recklessness has on his life. Despite spending a significant portion of the film with Lombardo, neither of these men bothered to ask about his life, perhaps the closest the film gets to being realistic.
Helter ultimately decides to drop the investigation, leaving Lombardo to team up with Crawford in a final undercover stage to catch the killer. At this point, the film abandons all pretense and morphs into a full-blown action thriller, a welcome development that injects more into play and much-needed tension into the narrative. Sadly, it is too little too late, and the movie, surprise, surprise, ends on an unsatisfying and forgettable note.
Midnight in the Switchgrass