Broadly speaking, awful movies fall into two categories — awfully bad in a funny way, and awfully bad period.
“Approaching Midnight” staggers into the latter category, an excruciatingly dull, badly written, badly-acted vanity project for writer-director-star Sam Logan Khaleghi.
A tale of an Afghan War vet who sees his best friend die in an ineptly-staged bit of combat, who then returns home to a rural Louisiana town where nobody has a Louisiana accent, where all the women are stunning and to a one, warm for his form, “Midnight” is 86 minutes of your life you will never get back.
Wesley Kent (Khaleghi) lost his best friend in Afghanistan and his girlfriend while he was in combat. We see the gorgeous but bland Aspen (Jana Kramer) in flashbacks. We have to. She died while Wesley was serving his country. She was the daughter of the mayor (Jeffrey Stetson, dreadful), a man who is running for governor, a fact that casts a “mysterious circumstances” shadow over Aspen’s death.
Her unutterably beautiful sister (Mia Serafino) trusts their daddy and is more interested in picking up with Wesley where Aspen left off. The mayor’s campaign manager (Michelle Lynne Balser) likewise is more interested in the soldier than the soldier’s questions about how Aspen died. Wesley keeps drifting into flashbacks — of combat, of his boring first few dates with Aspen.
In the movies, one sure sign of a vanity project is the sort of people the vain one surrounds himself with on screen. Khaleghi’s ladies are lookers with limited screen presence. Even the woman playing his sister (Jessica René Hilzey) could stop a clock.
Another giveaway of a vanity project is pretentious, preachy dialogue. “Approaching Midnight” has no conversations in it — just characters, mainly Khaleghi’s — delivering long monologues at one another.
“Remember, Mr. Mayor, after the game, the king and the pawn go back into the same box.”
“Approaching Midnight” has no urgency that propels the story forward. Scenes falls flat, the performances are universally stiff, the relationships and character names are confusing and under-explained and the production values lacking. When a barmaid pours beers out of a pitcher, you know they’re not shooting in a real bar, with taps. When a character mutters “I’m not sure much (sic) of us have use for a VHS,” there must have been nobody on the set to correct the writer-director-star’s grammar.
Which goes for the entire movie, which needed rewrites and script doctoring a lot more than it needed that Louisiana filmmaking incentive money that got it made.
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, language, some action violence and brief smoking
Cast: Sam Logan Khaleghi, Jana Kramer, Mia Serafino, Jeffrey Stetson, Michelle Lynne Balser
Credits: Written and directed by Sam Logan Khaleghi. A Monterrey Media release.
Running time: 1:26