An obsessive FBI agent teams up with a dedicated Pensacola detective to stop a serial killer in Midnight in the Switchgrass, a decently-produced but utterly generic new thriller that nevertheless exceeds the low-low standards set by the recent filmography of star Bruce Willis.
Willis phones it in here as one of the FBI agents hunting the killer, but he has minimal screen time and there are a trio of unexpectedly dedicated performances that help prop Midnight in the Switchgrass back up despite the derivative nature of the narrative.
Those performances include Megan Fox as Rebecca, the obsessive partner of Willis’ FBI agent Karl. Out to catch a serial killer who has been dumping bodies alongside the Florida highway, Karl ineffectively stakes out a location intended to lure in the serial killer while Rebecca plays the sultry bait waiting half-naked in a hotel room.
Emilie Hirsch, meanwhile, is Byron, a Pensacola detective who seems to be doing actual police work. In the unimaginative Midnight in the Switchgrass, that involves examining the scene the latest body has been found at, and taking a look at surveillance footage of a missing young woman who might be the next victim.
But Lukas Haas steals the show in Midnight in the Switchgrass as the killer, a baseball cap-wearing truck driver with a Southern twang, a wife and young daughter, and young woman chained up in the backyard shed surrounded by the titular switchgrass.
Lengthy scenes between Haas and his intended victim (played by Caitlin Carmichael) are nothing new, but the actor really amps up the creep factor and gives Midnight in the Switchgrass a sleazy, tasteless appeal. A climactic sequence between Haas and an elderly neighbor is legitimately tense, and one of the film’s paltry highlights.
The procedural narrative of Midnight in the Switchgrass is as efficient – and convincing – as any one of a number of generic network TV detective shows; scenes involving Hirsch’s character and other Florida police are as efficient as they need to be. A sequence between Byron and the mother of one of the victims that bookends the film is genuinely heartfelt.
Initial scenes between the FBI agents played by Willis and Fox, meanwhile, are utterly unconvincing and threaten to sink Midnight in the Switchgrass right out of the gate. But Willis makes an early exit to the great benefit of the movie, and things generally improve even as the expected plays out exactly as expected.
Midnight in the Switchgrass will win no accolades, and next to something like Netflix’s Mindhunter the derivative serial killer screenplay is woefully inadequate. For undemanding audiences, however, Midnight in the Switchgrass is a serviceable little thriller with some committed performances by Fox, Hirsch, and especially Haas, and competently put together by debut director Randall Emmett, who previously produced films ranging from The Irishman to Force of Nature.