10 to Midnight (1983)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Action Thriller, Police Detective Film  |   Release Date - Mar 11, 1983 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 101 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - R
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This sleazy yet surprisingly compelling combination of cop thriller and slasher movie is one of the better Charles Bronson vehicles from the early 1980's. William Roberts' script both caters to and exploits the conservative 'law and order' mood of the Reagan era, filling the story with plenty of knee-jerk reactionary messages about the failings of the American justice system while also indulging in high levels of sex and violence to pruriently illustrate these messages. Despite its obvious nature, the story does benefit from taut plotting and devotes much more time to character development than any of the Death Wish clones that Bronson churned out around this time. 10 To Midnight further benefits from inspired direction and performances. J. Lee Thompson's slick direction mixes glossy photography and fast-paced editing to create a tense game of cat-and-mouse between Bronson and his deviously clever foe. The film is lent added dramatic weight by solid work from an excellent supporting cast: Lisa Eilbacher is both fiery and likable as Bronson's free-thinking daughter, Andrew Stevens' inexperienced but intelligent tyro detective makes a witty, worthwhile foil to Bronson's veteran cop and Geoffrey Lewis contributes some amusing moments as a sleazy defense attorney who encourages the villain to go for an insanity plea if all else fails. However, 10 To Midnight is anchored by the battle of wills between its two leads: Bronson hits the right combination of self-righteousness and grizzled dark humor as the world-weary but determined cop hero and Gene Davis is downright blood-chilling as a psycho that is as narcissistic as he is perverse. When they face off during the film's climax, it's the stuff of b-movie legends. All in all, 10 To Midnight is probably a little too exploitative and grim for sensitive viewers but Bronson buffs and thriller addicts will enjoy its skillfully-crafted cheap thrills.