Movie Review: New Year’s Eve brings threats real and imagined to “Midnighters”

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A strained marriage, a tipsy New Year’s Eve party and a deadly road accident are but the opening gambit of “Midnighters,” a just-taut-enough thriller about ordinary people faced with extraordinary dilemmas.

It’s about secrets and betrayals, shifting loyalties and the grim, heartless calculus of death when it’s “either him or me.”

Lindsey (Alex Essoe of “Starry Eyes”) and Jeff (Dylan McTee of TV’s “Sweet/Vicious”) are renovating their house and struggling to make ends meet, as he can’t find work. The last thing either of them needs is hitting a pedestrian on a dark country road after having a few New Year’s Eve drinks.

To their credit, that’s not the first thing they think of. They try to save the guy, even though he’s got facial tattoos. But when they lose a pulse, it’s “We need some place where we can think about this” and even though “This isn’t ‘Goodfellas,'” that’s what they do.

When Lindsey’s trouble-in-mind younger sister (Perla Haney-Jardine) gets home from her own New Year’s Eve party, things get even more complicated — and deadly.

The cops are suspicious, especially this one detective (Ward Horton) who shows up, side-eyed in his oily-charm.

“You must be a Capricorn! So honest and…forthcoming.”

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Veteran TV editor turned director Julius Ramsay, working from an Alston Ramsay (military speechwriter turned screenwriter) script, keeps the lights off and the mood menacing. The performers manage to make even the lapses in logic in that script skim past with barely a “Wait, nobody’s that naive/stupid” pause, though there are a few.

Some of the abrupt shifts in attitude seem like core beliefs abandoned simply to let the story move along, but the players let on that these characters have agendas that steel their inner resolve.

The twists become increasingly obvious as the layers of intrigue are peeled off. But the third act, with its stark choices and grisly cliffhanger of a brawl, pays off, even it that payoff feels a tad more conventional than is promised.

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MPAA Rating: unrated, with graphic violence, profanity

Cast: Alex Essoe, Dylan McTee, Perla Haney-Jardine, Ward Horton

Credits:Directed by Julius Ramsay, script by Alston Ramsay. An IFC Midnight release.

Running time: 1:34

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