Sunday, May 17, 2020

Tribeca ’20: 12 Hour Shift

Nurse Mandy makes Dr. House look like a paragon of abstinence and empathy. He was just hooked on pain-killers. She needs harder stuff. Fortunately, her hospital work gives her access to dying patients and their highly-flippable organs. The arrangement had been working well until she brought in her empty-headed cousin (by marriage) as the courier. When a kidney goes missing, it leads to a dark, violent night in Brea Grant’s 12 Hour Shift, which would have screened at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, were it not for the CCP’s cover-up of the Wuhan outbreak and WHO’s subsequent collusion denying human-to-human transmission.

Karen, the admitting nurse, runs operation in the hospital. Technically, Nurse Mandy does the killing, but they are usually more like euthanasia than murder. Of course, they make it look like natural causes. Cousin Regina is just responsible for ferrying the cooler from the hospital loading dock to the thuggish Nicholas, who handles the customer side of the business. Yet, somehow, she manages to lose a pre-sold kidney on this fateful night. That means Nurse Mandy will have to improvise to save Regina’s neck (or at least her kidney).

It turns out this 1999 night will be the perfect storm of trouble. In addition to the cop killer who was just admitted with his rent-a-cop minder, Mandy’s estranged step-brother also came in comatose after an overdose. Plus, most of the local cops are out-of-town for a Y2K preparedness conference. Frankly, Nurse Mandy would probably keep matters from getting out of hand, were it not for Regina’s misguided attempts to take the initiative. Things really get messy (and blood-splattered) as a result.

Shift is often amusing in a one-darned-thing-after-another kind of way, but its condescending attitude towards the small-town Arkansas characters gets tiresome quickly. Not every Arkansan is an opioid-addicted Jesus Freak, just like not every Los Angelino is a welfare-cheating gang member. Nevertheless, the uber-caustic, ultra-deadpan performance of Angela Bettis as Nurse Mandy is a thing of beauty. Frankly, she mostly just hits one or two notes, but what cutting notes they are.

Nikea Gamby-Turner matches her note-for-acid-dripped-note as Nurse Karen. Chloe Farnworth is just spectacularly clueless, to the point of being downright dangerous, as Cousin Regina. Kit Williamson is also likably loopy as Officer Myer, the “nice guy” cop. However, producer David Arquette largely falls back on familiar shtick as Jefferson, the ferocious cop-killer.

Somehow, Grant manages to distract viewers from her characters’ appalling crimes through her screwball pacing. Even the film itself seems to lose track of its body-count. However, her periodic attempts at hipster stylization fall embarrassingly flat. Still, it is worth watching Bettis do her cynical thing. Recommended for cult movie fans, who like their comedies bloody and nihilistic, 12 Hour Shift would have screened at this year’s Tribeca, but it is likely to get picked up for distribution regardless.