Midnight in the Switchgrass is like every other mystery/crime movie you have ever watched. Set in 2004 Pensacola, FBI agents (played by a very bored Bruce Willis and Megan Fox, who flexes her survival muscles from Till Death) are hot on the trail of a sex-trafficking ring. Their investigation crosses paths with a serial killer, forcing them to team up with local Texas Ranger Bryan Crawford (Emile Hirsch). From here, the plot goes exactly as you would expect. It is filled with every thriller cliche, and the resolution is generic. It is more of a shrug than a total misfire; without Megan Fox’s Rebecca character, I am not sure I would recommend watching it at all. When Rebecca gets kidnapped, falling in the crosshairs of a dangerous killer (Lukas Haas), Bryan and Karl (Willis) must work together to save her from a grisly fate.
From top to bottom, it feels like minimal effort was put into this movie. The big exception is Megan Fox herself, who puts on a fierce and strong female performance. A hotel room scene where she shares the screen with real-life boyfriend Machine Gun Kelly—he confronts Rebecca, punches her in the stomach, and attempts to rape her—shows off the badass qualities of her character. She fights back with vigor and annoyance. “He was annoying the shit outta me, so I beat the fuck outta him,” she says to her partner Karl when he busts into the room amidst the scuffle. The makeup effects in the latter half let down her acting—her dirty legs are supposed to show her terrifying conditions, but it is silly and lacks realism.
The rest of the characters are threadbare. Only Emile Hirsch’s Bryan, who wants to reopen the cases of several unsolved murders and connect them, gets anything else to do. A strict secretary takes Bryan’s impassioned plea about dead girls to heart, and instantly switches gears to help him in a hilariously cheesy segment. The emotional crux, with a grieving mother chatting with Bryan who wants justice for her daughter, gets a satisfying wrap-around that works well as a closing moment.
The true story angle is maybe the biggest disappointment of all. The Truck Stop Killer is “Texas’ most dangerous serial killer,” but you would never know that judging by his depiction in the movie. He does awful things and is depicted as a family man who deeply loves his daughter. There is nothing even remotely chilling or creepy about his performance. There is zero tension or tangible stakes in Lukas Haas’s laidback delivery—a major disappointment, considering the pedigree of the story itself.
Overall, I was not crazy about Midnight in the Switchgrass. It feels like a Lifetime or standard TV serial killer production, down to the vaguely drawn details and minimal violence or grit. The Truck Stop Killer could make for a horrifying and disturbing cinematic depiction, even if simply focusing on the victims from a different angle. For less demanding audiences, this could be a passable 99 cent rental in the future or something breezy to catch on cable. It is standard, passable, but ultimately forgettable.
Midnight in the Switchgrass gets trapped in select theaters, on demand, and digital on Friday, July 23rd.