80's Cannon!: 10 to Midnight
10 to Midnight has been on my list of films to watch for a very long time now. It possesses 3 things that immediately made it a priority to watch (Bronson, Cannon Films & J. Lee Thompson directing), it was just the matter of finding just the right moment to do so. It's also brought up often as one of Bronson's best from his 80's era, described as a slasher/thriller about a serial killer who kills women in the nude, which makes it an instant departure from his usual "revenge" stuff. I just wanted to make sure I had the time to sit through it completely and not have to watch it in 20-30 minute intervals, which is usually how I have to watch movies these days.
As excited as I was about finally getting a chance to sit down with this early 80's Bronson/Cannon classic, I have to admit that I was left a bit underwhelmed and somewhat confused by this uneven effort. While not bad, it wasn't nearly as awesome as I was expecting, nor as violent as a lot of other reviews lead you to believe either. Yes it's violent, but it's done in such a cheap manner that it never comes off as gratuitous because you just can't get past the fake looking blood and dodgy/ill-conceived editing of these sequences. One of the things that drew me to this was the fact that it was the first in a long line of films between Bronson and director J. Lee Thompson. I'm a huge fan of most of them (Death Wish IV being my favorite) and I've always liked Thompson as a director, but something just seemed off this time around, like he couldn't figure out what type of film he was trying to make or he couldn't stick to a specific style since it changed frequently throughout. But you know, it's not a huge deal for most and I can certainly understand it's appeal. I just don't find it nearly as good as I was hoping it would be.
Of course, Bronson was being Bronson, which was cool. But this film was yet another reminder that Bronson just plays the same character in nearly every one of these 80's films, which if you like them, it's fine. Except in this one, I noticed a bit of range in that he was more of an asshole than normal here, which was amusing watching him be condescending and a smartass to nearly everyone. Too bad that didn't transfer over to his daughter in the film, who plays an even bigger one and just comes off as insufferable. Andrew Stevens, who plays Kessler's (Bronson) new partner easily stands out as the best and most likable character in the bunch. I've always liked Stevens as an actor. I never thought he got the credit he deserved for being a good one, because he really is. While he's good at playing a villain, he's equally as good playing the good guy. Stevens would eventually go on to be a mega producer, writer, actor, director on well over 100 films in the DTV market just a few years later. I have to say though that the real scene-stealer in this would have to be Gene Davis, who plays the serial killer because he was just absolutely awful. Just terrible. Every scene he was in was cringe-inducing. In this he plays a serial killer who kills women while he's in the nude, which is a lot. So if that's your thing, you will see a lot of nudity in this, mainly from him, but of other random women as well.
I don't know, the more I think about it the more I realize this didn't hit the mark for me. It felt a bit lazy at times, and the constant shift in tone (sometimes it's a slasher, sometimes it's a detective drama) didn't blend well when it very well could have with just some minor tweaks. With all his experience as a director, I think it's with J. Lee Thompson that I'm most disappointed with. Often feeling and looking amateurish, had the film been more streamlined and stylish, it could easily have been a lot better as a film overall. I mean, just look at his work in Death Wish IV, my favorite of his Bronson collaborations. Still, this isn't a bad film. I'm glad I finally got to see it and it definitely left an impression. Just not in the way I had hoped.
How to watch it:
This film is available in a variety of formats, nearly every single one to date. So it's just a matter of picking how you want to watch it. It won't be hard to find.