I get a bit of a kick out of seeing a bigger movie star in horror films. Much like Night Game, 10 to Midnight is a fairly cheap thriller, 6 years it’s junior. This has a slasher aspect to appeal to the younger market, pack out the cinemas and make some noise in the video charts. Unlike Night Game, this came at the right time and manages to be a great example of the genre done well.
Bronson plays an ageing detective, taking on a younger by-the-book protege played by (soon to be producer powerhouse) Andrew Stevens. Together they must track down a mysterious serial killer who is targeting young ladies.
One wonders what might attract Bronson to the slasher genre and it becomes pretty obvious as his character is beefier than normal. To keep things relatively spoiler free I will add that what might seem a simple detective who can bend the rules to get things done is one thing, but Bronson has a little added drama as the killings build up and creep a little too close to home.
We see our killer, Warren, early on and follow his tirade close up as he avoids the police and uses a couple of tactics to avoid suspicion. Gene Davies, playing Warren, gives an uneven performance that, unsettling as it can be, falls victim to some clunky editing during early dialogue exchanges. Davies is pretty comfortable in a role that requires full frontal nudity for a large portion of the movie. Alec Baldwin was also in the running for the role, so perhaps that saved us getting to know that household name a little too much.
The film throws in an impressive line of supporting talent with Wilford Brimley, Geoffrey Lewis and the fantastically husky Lisa Eilbacher as Bronson’s daughter. A young Kelly Preston pops up and the rest of the cast are familiar faces if you have enjoyed any of the other 9 or so Bronson / J Lee Thompson outings.
One of the less effective mechanisms of the plot is Stevens and Elibacher’s developing relationship in the first half. Their early arguments feel overblown, falling to Stevens’ over doing it too soon in these moments. A conversation over lunch becomes too tempestuous too quickly. However, once this initial “chemistry” has moved onto a relationship there is some fun had. Particularly a moment when Stevens’ gets his cop game on at a party thinking some guests are being attacked in a laundry room, his embarrassed reaction is natural and hilarious.
J Lee Thompson is calling the shots here in his fourth teaming with Bronson. Aside from these ropy moments 10 to Midnight features continual crowd pleasing moments. Thompson keeps the action tense and fun. My hat is off to Robert Ragland (who also scored Deep Space) for providing a terrific time capsule of a soundtrack. The music fits like a glove, perfectly capturing the 80’s vibe and a wonderful sense of nostalgia watching it 40 years later.
One eye opening credit is that this is written by William Roberts, writer of The Magnificent Seven, The Last American Hero and The Devil’s Brigade. This would be Roberts’ final film and perhaps a good reason why the film feels less of a threadbare slasher and more full bodied than others of the ilk. Whilst it is said to be low budget Golan and Globus managed to pull off a lot for the limited resources.
Yet it is Bronson who carries the film. Playing Eilbacher’s father. He is everyone’s father, including the audience. I love when Bronson uses street lingo, asking prostitutes about their “tricks,” remarking a dope smoker is smoking some good stuff and yelling about the use of a machine for “Jacking Off” whilst wearing a snazzy jumper and slacks. Fatherly advice and concerns flow easily whilst mistaking unmanly quiche and coleslaw for pie and ice cream.
The final reel of the film is terrific fun with Bronson racing against time to get to his daughter before the killer does, having spent some time messing with the killer and turning the tables to provoke a reaction. However, the film ends with a frustrating dispensing of justice. Having been drawn close to Bronson throughout the film the audience is left dangling as to his fate following his overzealous actions.
I expected 10 To Midnight to be a tacky, exploitative slasher and if it wasn’t for the involvement of Bronson I think I would have skipped over it. A reaction I think the producers hoped for when casting. The sum of the parts really adds up and in the end it’s a solidly entertaining movie. Certainly, some discretion is required as there is quite a bit of nudity. The kills are fairly unremarkable, however, the build up is good.
Poster art over the years has been nothing but fabulous. Nothing sells a movie better than Bronson brandishing a gun. There is terrific Blu Ray from 88 films if you fancy catching up.