10 to Midnight (1983) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

10 to Midnight might be more infamous than memorable, this due to a rather scathing review that noted film critic Roger Ebert spew on his widely seen program and in print. Ebert wrote, “This is a scummy little sewer of a movie, a cesspool.. The people who made 10 to Midnight have every right to be ashamed of themselves — and that includes Charles Bronson, whose name on the marquee is the only reason anybody would come to see it.” Wow.

Charlie Bronson is back in another violent thriller, in which he yet again plays a police officer protecting his loved ones from the vile scum of the streets. However, instead of the roaming marauders of thugs that made up the landscape of the Death Wish flicks, 10 to Midnight focuses on the murderous rampage of a serial killer who is stalking beautiful women across the city. Warren Stacey (Gene Davis) is an absolute maniac with a number of brutal slayings under his belt, the crimes are committed without remorse and while Stacey is in the nude. This film is severely hampered by a pre-dating of DNA admissible evidence.

Leo Kessler (Bronson) is a weary streetwise detective, sick to death of the system’s predilection of siding with the human rights of criminals and letting free homicidal maniacs like Stacey. Kessler apprehends Stacey but plants fake evidence in the process, a desperate act to keep this killer behind bars. The unwise move ends up costing Kessler his job in a very public and embarrassing firing.

Now freed Stacey sets his sights on the college aged daughter of Kessler. He begins making sexual phone calls from outside her dormitory, enraged upon hearing the news Kessler becomes a ruthless vigilante and sets out to take down this menace to society.

10 to Midnight shows hints at the kinkier themes that would pop-up in a number of the J. Lee Thompson directed Bronson films. The central villan is just as sadistic as any bad-guy in the Death Wish universe, expect Warren Stacey is a good-looking kid who catches women unaware, it has obviously been modeled after the Ted Bundy killings. Andrew Stevens, who would go on to conquer the B-movie market, is a likeable addition to the story as Leo’s new, younger partner with a special soft spot of his bosses’ daughter. Is it as bad a Ebert suggested? I don’t think so. The production values are on the level and Bronson is laid-back but not lethargic (as in his next few movies), 10 to Midnight is arguably the most polished of the Thompson/Cannon films era.

Director: J. Lee Thompson
Stars: Charles Bronson, Lisa Eilbacher, Andrew Stevens

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