First-time filmmaker Julian Fort continues to captivate audiences along the festival circuit with his crime thriller “The Midnighters” which premiered at the Phoenix Film Festival and will soon screen at Dances With Films on Friday, June 9. (Ticket Info) Starring Leon Russom (“True Grit”) as Victor, a 35 year ex-convict and expert safe-cracker, and Gregory Sims as his long-lost son, the two are reunited to pull of one last and very profitable bank heist. Filled with unexpected twists and turns, this cinematically gorgeous film will leave you guessing until the bitter end.
Victor (Russom), is released from prison and is reporting to his parole officer whose rote and obligatory directives are both condescending and dehumanizing. Victor attempts to follow the rules and walk a straight and narrow path, but finding his way and a job in this very different world is not working. Desperate, he visits an old friend who was to have kept an eye on the profits from his last job and finds that time has not been kind…to his friend or his money. Vince is then approached by his son with whom he has had no contact in years as he and his 3 Russian “partners” need Victor’s unique skills to pull of this heist. This seemingly no-fail robbery is more temptation than he can resist and the two slide down the slippery slope of greed.
“The Midnighters” creates the perfect balance of love and disdain for Vince. As the tension builds gradually, we grow to truly care for this ex-con, but still see that he is making one bad decision after another. His love for his son may be the ultimate crime for which he may not be prepared to pay the price. Filled with crossing and double-crossing, it’s a wonderfully intense thriller—a roller coaster ride of drama.
The dramatic scenes creating just the right mood are captured through concise cinematography. The dark and foreboding background, always giving the feeling of impending doom while there is still a hope of positive resolution through the dialogue. In addition, creative editing and segues are beautifully shot, augmenting the progression of the story.
While the story’s premise may not be unique, it is the unusual sympathy Fort develops for his main character, Victor. Russom exhibits this lovable sweetness that allows you to see who he might have been 35 years ago. His struggle to do what’s right is palpable as the carrot of gold is dangled in front of him. With his gruff exterior, he eloquently elicits such sympathy that you find yourself wanting someone to give this man a second chance. Sims and Russom seem a natural fit as father and son as the two sort out years that have been lost. Sims creates a complex character that is at times unexpected, but always understood.
“The Midnighters” is an impressive first attempt at a full-length feature film creating a true crime thriller. Great editing, skillful direction, and a more than competent cast elevate this film to a competitive level. Fort has a bright future ahead of him.
3 1/2 Stars