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FILM REVIEW: The Midnighters

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode


"I'm 72," says Vic (Leon Russom) to the parole officer. Isn't that enough? He's been in prison for 35 years. Now that they're letting him out he wants to settle down in a litle place of his own, adjust to the modern world. Most people have retired by his age. He has no plans to return to a life of crime.

Of course, things are never that simple.

Danny (Gregory Sims) was four when his parents' relationship ended; shortly after that, Vic was imprisoned, and they haven't seen each other since. When he suddenly reappears in the old man's life, it's clear that this isn't just a matter of filial affection. In fact, Danny is planning a bank robbery, and he needs his father's legendary safe-cracking skills to pull it off.

A smart, twisty little thriller that hinges on the relationship between these two men who hardly know each other, The Midnighters is stylishly shot and big on atmosphere, with snappy dialogue that never detracts from the underlying emotion. As Vic asks questions about access, alarm systems and the other guys involved, Danny lays out his plan with smooth professionalism, but the weight of 35 years of unanswered questions is ever-present. Knowing that if he walks away his son will probably try something riskier without him, Vic cautiously agrees, but insists that in return Danny be completely honest with him. It should go without saying that this doesn't happen, but exactly where each man's priorities lie remains uncertain to the end; likewise the intentions of the Russians Danny is working with.

The film was written as a vehicle for Russom and serves him well. After 45 years of turning in commendable supporting performances (Coen brothers fans may recognise him from True Grit or The Big Lebowski), he deserves this chance to show what he's capable of, and he's compelling throughout. Vic is a man who has survived one disappointment after another and had his patience tested to the limit. The gulf between him and his son is much greater than their age difference or relationship to a world whose technological changes confound him. Can they ever hope to bridge it?

Scott Doherty's music underscores this family reunion in a minor key. The heist itself is gripping, but it is Russom's performance that holds the attention and refuses to let go.

Reviewed on: 13 Jun 2017

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