Charles Bronson headlines this above-average low-budget thriller about a cop of questionable morals (Bronson) in pursuit of a serial killer (Gene Davis) who kills in the nude. Early in the film, Bronson tells his boss (Wilford Brimley) that the killer’s “knife is his penis.” The killer is motivated to kill because women won’t give him attention otherwise, making 10 to Midnight all the more relevant today because of the ‘incel’ phenomenon (assholes who angrily claim they are involuntarily celibate).
The film spends equal time with both the cop and the criminal. Bronson has an easy-going, effortless charisma about him. Gene Davis makes for a sexy and creepy killer and spends half his screen-time running around naked (usually with well-placed foreground elements hiding the goods). The film was one of the first released by Cannon Films (Yorum Globus and Menahem Golan), so director J. Lee Thompson (The Guns of Navarone, Cape Fear) was able to get away with a bit more violence and nudity than other studios at the time.
I like that Bronson’s character isn’t a squeaky-clean cop in this movie. He’s law-abiding up to a point, but when the killer is let loose on a technicality, Bronson starts playing dirty — planting evidence — to keep more innocent women from being killed. I also appreciate that there was no tacked-on love affair in the film (like there are in so many others movies like this one). Instead, the central relationship is a re-conciliatory one between Bronson’s character and his daughter (Lisa Eilbacher). And naturally, the killer ends up targeting the daughter and her friends (in one of the highlight sequences) — making the quest for vigilante justice all the more personal for old Chuck Bronson. Chuck’s quiet rage simmers through the third act until the film poses an ultimate moral quandary during the big showdown.
But don’t worry. Chuck won’t let you down.
With Andrew Stevens and Geoffrey Lewis.