CAPSULE: ‘The Midnighters’ is a short, sharp shock of a crime film, keenly directed. It is helmed by Julian Fort, who also wrote the screenplay. Leon Russom plays Victor, a safecracker being paroled after 35 years. He has every intention of going straight with the rules of parole until his son shows up unexpectedly with a plan that is promised to be a sure-thing of a bank job. The dialog is excellent and the characters well-written, but especially good is the casting. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
Safecracker Victor Lustig (played by Leon Russom) has been in prison for 35 years. You can see the years in prison on Victor’s face. Now he is 72 and his new parole officer is laying out his new rules. They are almost as bad as the rules were in prison. Leon hopes he still has the money stashed away going back to the time he was convicted. He has a right to hope but this kind of hope doesn’t do him much good. His old friends are just not big on business ethics. Victor has little money and has to face a world he no longer understands and…surprise…his son, Danny (Gregory Sims), shows up. The boy is as good with electronics as Victor is with locks, but he is still stealing. Victor’s release makes him available to use his special talents on a bank job that Danny is planning and it may well be that he can use his father, a prospect that does not exactly thrill Victor. He does not want to see the cocky youngster make the same mistakes he made.
It is a puzzle just what makes this a particularly magnetic crime film. It is clever but not flashy. It is less like ‘The Inside Man’ and more like the classic ‘Rififi’. The dialog is crisp in the best tradition of a David Mamet film. It is delivered well from a well-chosen cast. The acting is usually very smooth and never worse than good. Victor does not look like an action star. He has a face like a basket of used laundry and, ironically, that give him a certain charisma. He has a perfect look for film noir.
The photography is sharp and does not leave it up to the viewer to figure out what happening. The one use of an overly familiar effect is the digital equivalent of an under-ranked camera so traffic, like Victor’s life, goes by in a flash. The film goes to a tight 86 minutes. That time does not always have pitch perfect pacing, but the dialog and the acting always compensate where needed.
But for some familiar actors, eg John Wesley, this appears to be a low budget film but carried off smoothly. I rate it a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10. Currently the film is playing the festival circuit, but it is probably going to get a better release.
Mark R. Leeper
© Mark R. Leeper 2017