Based on harrowing true events, Randall Emmett, known for producing notable Hollywood heavy hitters like The Irishman, Silence and Everest, takes a turn at directing his first feature film with the crime thriller Midnight in the Switchgrass.
Pensacola Florida, 2004. Byron Crawford (Emile Hirsh) is a state police officer who, for several years, has dedicated his life to achieving justice for the missing and murdered girls that have fallen through the cracks of society. Such has been going for years throughout the panhandle: girls vanish, only for their bodies to turn up days later, discarded by the roadside, staged, and bearing bite marks. Despite the consistent frequency of these crimes, Crawford is reassigned due to lack of evidence, but he continues to insert himself into the investigation regardless.
At the same time, FBI agents Karl (Bruce Willis) and Lombardo (Megan Fox) are on the hunt for a highway man who preys upon young prostitutes, specifically those who are underaged and potentially trafficked. So far, their undercover work has led nowhere. When the body of another young prostitute is found at the seedy motel just hours after Karl and Lombardo left that same place due to a failed sting operation, their paths cross with Crawford and they decide to join forces.
The intense investigation trudges up past feelings and memories for Lombardo, and as the case escalates, she puts herself headfirst into danger in order to see things resolved. But happy endings are slippery things – just as slippery, perhaps, as the evil that lies in wait to make sure we never achieve them.
Also starring Lukas Haas and Colson Baker (better known by his stage name as Machine Gun Kelly), Midnight in the Switchgrass is a raw police procedural characterised by a sensation of déjà vu, that we as an audience have already seen previous works similar in tone and in storyline. Yet Emmett’s debut is indeed a vivid commentary on violence against women and doesn’t gloss over the brutality; rather, such visuals are used to highlight just how tragic this circumstance is. Ultimately, the subject matter is far too relevant to be comfortable and nor should it be.
The score is dark, erratic, and interspersed with country tunes reminiscent of life on the road, and the mismatched melodies create a small but acute sense of ominousness in the viewer that thrillers such as this rely heavily upon.
Megan Fox is a certified badass and a scene stealer. It’s nice to see her join projects where she can just act as opposed to being hired for eye-candy. Her character’s passion for searching for the girls who have been discarded, left to rot at the frayed edges of society, is extremely touching and is, perhaps, more commendable than Fox’s personal skills of intimidating (and sucker punching) her male counterparts on-screen. The dynamic between Lombardo and Willis’ Karl is quite stereotypical: where the former is aggressive, eager, adores the thrill of taking down the bad guys and unsurprisingly, foul-mouthed, the latter is serious and professional. The cast overall is well selected – though, despite his name being arguably the most famous on the roster, Willis plays a wholly irrelevant character. He’s given minimal attention and even less development. Regardless, it is nice to see a man — particularly a Hollywood veteran — taking a backseat to a capable woman, especially within this genre.
As for the serial killer himself, his background is only briefly explored as well, and his motivations are never completely explained. Nonetheless, there are scenes that will have you breathing hard with fear and anticipation – it is in contexts like this that, when used repeatedly, the terms ‘sweetheart’ and ‘good girl’ will certainly make your skin crawl.
Midnight in the Switchgrass is available on Digital Download 13 August and DVD 16 August from Lionsgate UK
by Kacy Hogg
Kacy is an English Lit student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately), Canada. Her favourite films include the Harry Potter series, Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95