The drug-addled nurse Mandy (Angela Bettis) is set to work a double shift at a local hospital. But she has a few problems – she’s a kidney short thanks to her chaotic cousin (Chloe Farnworth) messing up their illegal organ harvest operation and a cop-hating criminal (David Arquette) has arrived in hospital that’s sure to be key later on in proceedings.
Grant’s film nicely ambles through its set-up, with all the pieces leisurely laid out as 12 Hour Shift’s atmosphere washes over the audience. Drenched in neon and capturing a midnight hour quality to it, this is a gorgeous work with imagery that lingers long after the credits (special mention to Matt Glass who takes on both the role of composer and cinematographer here). Grant (who also writes the script) smartly spends her opening act setting up a roster of interesting characters, each running on their own tangent that crossover and weave before smashing together in the last act. Bettis is sensational as Mandy, a bitter, spiky turn that approaches the escalating situation she is in with an incredulity that charms the audiences. Farnworth is wonderfully off-kilter, with her performance amplifying the film’s dream-like tone. And Nikea Gamby-Turner does impressive work in a smaller part, gaining some of the film’s biggest laughs. 12 Hour Shift leaves such a mighty impression because it crafts complicated, interesting parts for a host of talented actresses.
It is also funny. Darkly humorous with moments of savage humour. Where the narrative is modest (remaining in one locale for much of the proceedings), there is the room for jokes and bizarre excursions to play out. Who knew illegally sourcing organs could be such fun? If there is a weakness here it is when the film feels the need to be pulled onto a more conventional route, particularly in the last act where Arquette comes in to play. I preferred the film when it was lethargic and anarchic, playing to its writer-director’s strengths.
But what a revelation this is for Grant, a work that calls to mind some of the finest genre directors of the 80s, but nevertheless charts a path uniquely its own. From a wonderfully constructed script to a roster of acting talent who embody their parts deliciously to a technical impressive work, modest in scope but rich in detail, everything clicks into place for this genre gem. Simply put, this critic loved 12 Hour Shift.