Phoenix Film Festival 2017: The Midnighters

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One of my favorite sub-genres is the heist movie. There’s always some form of tension as the final score is being pulled off, and there is always some sort of, I guess twist, for lack of a better word. Unless you’re Heat where the twist is “holy shit they just shot up all of Los Angeles.” And I’m not knocking Heat, it’s one of my favorites, it’s just a different kind of heist movie. In fact, it’s a crime movie. I’m dumb, ignore me.

The Midnighters is a little different as well. It’s more along the lines of The Score, as opposed to Ocean’s Eleven. Both great by the way. After a 72-year-old ex-con gets out of prison from a 35 year stretch, he’s forced to try an adapt to a world he is not familiar with anymore. On top of that, he finds out that a nest egg he had stored away has been taken, but when his estranged son shows up with a job offer he can’t refuse, he rethinks going straight.

Unlike most heist movies where a majority of the movie is spent on the planning of the job and the hurdles that that entails, this one focuses on the characters leading up to it. It is made abundantly clear that these guys are the best and there won’t be any complications. The only problem, to me at least, is that the wrong character aspects are developed. A lot of time is spent with the ex-con coping with issues that don’t pertain to the story. Small tidbits here and there are fine to establish that he’s having difficulty, but perhaps one or two beats where he’s struggling to not fall into his old ways. When his son shows up and offers him the job, he goes along with it pretty quickly. And there’s no relationship building with the son, so when the inevitable twist comes it’s not as shocking as it could have been.

Those are minor problems, though, this is easily one of the best movies I’ve seen at the festival since I’ve been going. It is well acted, well shot, well written, and well, everything. It’s a somewhat slow burn story, but it never feels like that in terms of pacing. If this were to come to video, or even the theater again, I would definitely check it out again, and I recommend you do the same.

Synopsis: An aging ex-con struggles to adapt to the outside world after many years in prison—and begins to build a relationship with the grown son he never knew.

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Jim Lincoln (The Film Department)

A man of mystery and power, whose power is exceeded only by his mystery. Writer of things. Watcher of stuff. Quoter of movies. Master of puppets.

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