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10 TO MIDNIGHT

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, May 17, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: A lot of Charles Bronson action flicks have been making their way to Blu-ray recently, but this is a real puzzler, one of Bronson’s worst. Still, the Shout! Factory believes there is an audience, hence this new release. My review was published on April 17, 1983, in the Deseret News.

Charles Bronson is really in a rut. He doesn’t seem to make films about anything but vigilante justice — taking the law into one’s own hands as a solution to clogged up courts, overcrowded prisons and legal technicalities that set criminals loose.

And the final scene of his latest “10 to Midnight,” seems to be a plea to abolish the insanity defense.

At its best, this picture has a centerpiece that begins to explore both sides of the issue, as Bronson, the veteran cop with countless citations, plants evidence to convict a killer and clashes with his young, idealistic partner (Andrew Stevens).

When that happens, “10 to Midnight” comes alive and looks as if it will overcome the inherent limitations of its own genre and be an interesting, serious examination of an issue of real concern.

But the beginning and windup of this film receive much more screen time, and they are so exploitatively violent as to make this film merely a big-budget “slasher” film.

     

Wilford Brimley, left, Charles Bronson, Andrew Stevens, '10 to Midnight'

The story follows Bronson as the dedicated cop who is tiring of injustices being committed by loopholes, and in a parallel manner gives equal time to the killer (Gene Davis), a lisping wimp who strips before he kills young women by stabbing them to death.

Stevens is the stereotypical good-looking young cop who knows all the rules and scientific methods by heart, while the older Bronson is the dinosaur who remembers the good old days, when courts convicted killers instead of letting them off because they weren’t read their rights.

Salt Lake actor Wilford Brimley is good as Bronson’s boss, a token character, and I liked Lisa Eilbacher as Bronson’s spirited daughter (she was the female recruit who finally made it in “An Officer and a Gentleman”), but most of the other supporting players are incredibly amateurish — particularly the female victims, who are required to do little besides strip and scream.

     

What makes “10 to Midnight” particularly detestable is its pretentions of importance — preachy dialogue that implores us to understand, and sympathize with Bronson’s viewpoint. His daughter is threatened, so it’s OK to break the law.

There’s a decent, intelligent thriller in here straining to break free, but it’s done in by a tired script and J. Lee Thompson’s mundane, exploitative direction. Best known for his top-notch “The Guns of Navarone,” Thompson has nonetheless given us mostly shlock, like Bronson’s own “White Buffalo” and “Caboblanco,” along with MacKenna’s Gold” and “Happy Birthday to Me,” which was specifically a “slasher” film.

I never did figure out the title, either. It’s never mentioned in the film and makes no specific reference to anything I remember. It is, however, rated R, as you might expect, for violence, sex, nudity and profanity.