Years ago I read a review by Roger Ebert for a Charles Bronson movie, 10 To Midnight. It was scathing, being awarded a rare 0/4 or as I remember it, 0/5. Ebert called it ‘shameful’ and a ‘scummy little sewer’ of a movie. However, when most people would run a mile, I deduced that Charles Bronson was just too manly for some people to watch, that his actions and movies were too brutally right wing. And that this raging review was probably a good sign. And I made a note to watch 10 To Midnight. A while later I caught it on late night television and thought that it wasn’t too bad at all. Mostly because of Mr. Bronson’s sheer alpha presence and actions and his bald-faced measures in the face of assorted trash ruining the streets.
There’s a mad slasher on the loose, some weirdo running around buck naked knifing women in the gut. Cop Charles Bronson finds this unacceptable and decides to put the squeeze on the main suspect. But in the interrogation room, big Charlie loses his cool with the smart-mouthed pervert and gives him some mild Bronson justice, which lets the crook get off in court. But it’s only when the maniac turns his attention to Bronson’s daughter (Lisa Eilbacher, who appeared in Beverly Hills Cop the following year), breathing heavily down the phone and threatening to rape her, when our hero goes into Bronson mode. Now out of the police, Bronson, too, is on the loose. And the maniac has to contend with his own maniac coming for him.
I laughed heartily multiple times throughout this manly movie. For instance, when Bronson turns vigilante and gives the villain a dose of his own medicine, driving alongside him, getting inside his head. The maniac loses his cool and henceforth refers to Bronson as the ‘dirty shit’. Not so bad when you got your own nut stalking you, eh? I mean, this movie is not as good as any of the Death Wishes. Too slow and serious in some parts and is clearly trying to be a psycho thriller. So you shouldn’t expect too much of it. It is what it is.
By the way, when watching this recently two things crossed my mind. There’s something ‘Terminator’-ish about the mad naked villain wandering around under the Los Angeles street lights, especially the blue haze and, it has to be said, sort of shitty soundtrack beats of both movies. It’s as if the movie slightly influenced Cameron, a naked murderer who is clearly working out running amok. Second, when I watched this originally, Bronson is describing the murder of a woman to his partner, by a husband who was sick of her interfering. When I watched that originally, the blasé manner in which Bronson described the murder was quite frankly extremely funny. However in the DVD version, the dialogue seems different, as does Bronson’s mannerisms and delivery. I’m almost sure of it.
But anyway, it’s the ending that really kicks ass with this movie. Here be SPOILERS. Bronson, having turned vigilante, confronts the mad freak threatening his daughter. And in front of about 20-40 witnesses, executes the suspect in cold blood as he pleads to be taken in and attempts to come quietly. Most of the witnesses are cops and all of them couldn’t give a shit. Then the movie just ends. It was possibly his manliest execution of a pissant villain, until the rocket launcher murder at the end of Death Wish 3, or the 20mm grenade launcher murder at the end of Death Wish 4!
‘When the guilty go free, the system is the crime’ — is there such thing as a bad Bronson movie?!