Review: Bruce Willis’ New Crime Thriller Is A Total Dud

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Megan Fox and Bruce Willis are at very different stages of their careers, but they’ve both become regulars on the VOD circuit over the last couple of years, so it was almost inevitable that their paths would cross eventually. Whereas the fallen A-lister has taken to showing up in as many B-tier thrillers as possible, with Midnight in the Switchgrass marking his sixth credit in the last fourteen months, Fox has been enjoying something of a resurgence.

Unfairly ostracized from the mainstream, the actress took a break from the public eye and didn’t lend her name to anything for three years after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows was released in 2016. Fox is reinventing her reputation in the eyes of both the public and her peers, but unfortunately Midnight in the Switchgrass marks a bit of a step back.

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Which is a shame, really, when she’s shown a surprising amount of range in her recent output, whether it be playing an action hero in surprisingly enjoyable action thriller Rogue, or giving arguably a career-best performance in ‘Till Death, which saw her as a disillusioned wife who wakes up handcuffed to the dead body of her husband before a mystery begins to reveal itself. That movie only released three weeks ago, but Midnight in the Switchgrass is much closer to Willis’ recent output than Fox’s.

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Don’t be fooled by the marketing, though, which would have you believe the Die Hard legend plays a major supporting role. He’s only in a handful of scenes, and then abruptly f*cks off with no explanation for the majority of the running time, all while failing to pull any other facial expression than his typically bored look that makes you think he may have been replaced by a waxwork of himself without anyone noticing, such is the energy he brings to the table.

He probably only took the gig as a favor to director Randall Emmett, who makes his feature debut behind the camera after spending the bulk of his career as a prolific producer of star-powered low budget fare. The duo have collaborated on The Prince, Vice, Extraction, Precious Cargo, Marauders, First Kill, Acts of Reprisal, Trauma Center and Survive the Night, and Midnight in the Switchgrass is virtually indistinguishable from all of them.

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There’s definitely potential in the premise, even if it ticks almost every cliched box you’d expect from the crime thriller procedural. Ambitious and determined agent partnered up with a cynical veteran? Check. Serial killer who presents himself to the outside world as a hardworking family man? Check. Local cop who gets taken off the investigation but goes ahead and works it anyway? Check. An undercover sting operation gone wrong? Our heroine getting captured by the killer? A race against time before she becomes the next victim? You name it, Midnight in the Switchgrass has got it.

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Fox’s foul-mouthed and beer-guzzling Rebecca Lombardi is at least a different sort of FBI archetype, but everything that surrounds her is as rote as con be. Lombardi and Willis’ Karl Helter are closing in on a child sex trafficking ring, but their investigation ends up crossing paths with that of a notorious local serial killer, who’s been doggedly pursued by Emile Hirsch’s Byron Crawford for years. The aforementioned sting sees Lombardi held hostage, and Crawford is the only one who can save her as he pieces together the various clues and breadcrumb trails to uncover her location in spectacularly convenient fashion.

If you read that synopsis, you can pretty much guess exactly where Midnight in the Switchgrass is heading from the very first scene. The opportunity was there for some interesting subtext in relation Lombardi’s circumstances, potentially forcing her to make a decision between gaining some measure of retribution through her job for her perception of the criminals she hunts, or simply let her be overwhelmed and consumed by her capture, changing her entire worldview. Instead, the story pivots into action thriller territory in the third act, throwing all sense of subtlety or added dimensions out of the window in favor of the cat-and-mouse shtick we’ve seen done a thousand times before, and much better.

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Fox does her best trying to establish her character as a badass, including what’s arguably the best scene in the movie when she exchanges physical and verbal barbs with Machine Gun Kelly’s low level pimp, but it’s back to the formulaic grind immediately afterwards. There isn’t a shred of originality or inventiveness to be found anywhere in the DNA of Midnight in the Switchgrass, but the performances from Fox, Hirsch and Lukas Haas as the unnervingly creepy and very murderous Peter are deserving of much better material. That being said, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a modern era Bruce Willis effort, even if he’s barely in it at all.

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