Double shifts can be murder, amiright?...
...Written and directed by Brea Grant, 12 Hour Shift is a bloody black comedy about organ theft, murder, and shitty break room cake. Nurse Mandy (Angela Bettis) moonlights as a black-market organ supplier picking parts from her hospital's crop. "Crop" being elderly and terminal patients whose bodies are failing them, just hopefully not the bits Mandy's extracurricular employer desires. Mandy has a system: she facilities patients' death, her partner in crime, Karen (Nikea Gamby-Turner), removes the organs, and her crazy cousin Regina (Chloe Farnworth) picks them up to deliver to their boss.
Think medical malpractice on steroids.
Their seemingly perfected system is thrown into jeopardy by a careless act when Regina loses a kidney delivery. Her haste to find a replacement sets off a bloody chain of events making for a shift none of them will soon forget. 12 Hour Shift strikes a balance of dark redneck humor with a Fargo-esque penchant for murder. The film is a cautionary tale for why medical workers deserve better. Given its humor places little value on life, I was surprised by how accurately the film depicts the struggle medical workers face. Being pulled in 15 different directions, being demeaned by a superior, and, if you manage to survive a hellish shift, you’re rewarded with a shitty sheet cake from Kroger.
Given how high strung, under-appreciated, and overworked every nurse in the film is, why the hell wouldn't a blood bath break out?
12 Hour Shift is a strange amalgam of genres, from slasher to comedy to thriller to murder mystery to heist movie. All the variables of a heist movie are there; the mark is an elderly Alzheimer's patient and the score is a kidney. As desperation to find a replacement organ grows, the nurses turn to devious means of inducing ailing patients' deaths. Mandy walks by beds of patients as if she were wandering through a meat market, noting their conditions, their life expectancy, and whether or not their family checks in on them regularly.
Given how dark 12 Hour Shift's humor is, there is a zaniness to it all that ensures it never takes itself too seriously—well, as serious as a movie about nurses stealing organs for the black market could be. To Brea Grant's credit, the smart nurse-centric humor here, mixed in with some redneck fluff, largely caters to the plights of the profession. Why would a cop question Mandy being covered in blood standing next to a naked morgue corpse? Isn't that what nurses do? Nothing to see here, folks!
But as the lies and misdirects boil over, the bodies begin to drop rapidly.
At the core of the film's humor is Mandy and Regina's relationship. Mandy is the tough as nails, but tired of people's shit, brains of the operation. She's cold, calculated, and very addicted to drugs. Angela Bettis's performance is an absolute highlight, making Mandy’s always fluctuating work temperament relatable to us all on some level. So much so that we can’t help but root for her, despite her propensity for organ theft, which makes for an introspective quandary.
Meanwhile, Regina is the mindless other half that has a propensity for making every situation exponentially worse. The juxtaposing of opposites makes for hilariously morose moments, such as Regina killing a patient for his kidneys, despite him being on dialysis for kidney failure.
There's a solid cast of supporting characters aiding the madness of the film who, despite their best intentions, manage to make every situation all the more manic. Whether it’s wrestler Mick Foley as a black-market ringleader or David Arquette as a suicidal prisoner, there are plenty bizarre variables fueling this weird and wild ride.
This litany of unsavory characters comes at the cost of a pacing hiccup midway through. There are so many characters and storylines running at once the narrative begins to feel spread thin, especially once the hospital erupts into chaos. It doesn't take long for the film to even itself out, reeling in the characters and side plots, but it is noticeable, however brief.
The medical worker allegory of 12 Hour Shift makes an entertaining, if at times somewhat bumpy, ride. The blending of seriously dark humor and bloodshed makes for squeamish laughs and bloody bodily harm. Maybe if we treated medical workers better, they wouldn't have to resort to such medical malpractice atrocities. And yet, we wouldn't have this fun as hell film.
12 Hour Shift comes to VOD from Magnet Releasing on October 2nd.
By Jay Krieger
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