Despite a believably lived-in lead performance from Angela Bettis to work with and proficient direction from Brea Grant, 12 Hour Shift winds up leaning into moronic characters more and more until it all becomes kind of insufferable. One in particular, the cousin (by marriage) of Bettis’ main character, verges on being a cartoon representation of a person to the point I wonder how she even managed to survive into adulthood. It’s really a shame, because this could have been quite a successful little thriller instead of an increasingly stupid display of bloody shenanigans that make less and less sense.
It’s 1999 in Arkansas, a time of Y2K panic and Beanie Baby madness. Nurse Mandy (Angela Bettis) is about to begin a 12 hour shift at the hospital where, aside from typical nurse duties, she’s also got a side gig collecting organs to sell on the black market. After chatting with co-workers Karen (Nikea Gamby-Turner), Dorothy (Tara Perry), and Janet (Brooke Seguin) about whatever and snorting some pills to get the night started, Mandy meets up with cousin by marriage Regina (Chloe Farnworth) to exchange organs for cash. Unfortunately for Mandy, her deeply stupid cousin loses the organs so black market organ seller Nicholas (Mick Foley) demands Regina go back to Mandy and get more or else he’ll be using Regina’s insides as replacement for the lost goods. Complications ensue as Mandy does her best to make it through an increasingly difficult shift thanks to a dim cop (Kit Williamson), killer criminal (David Arquette), forgetful patient (Missy Stahr Threadgill), and the demented Regina who exacerbates everything via complete idiocy.
I don’t have many criticisms of 12 Hour Shift when it comes to things like score, cinematography, editing, or all the technical aspects of filmmaking go, but I’m sorry to say the story/characters simply don’t measure up. Angela Bettis does well at bringing Mandy to life so that even when she’s doing horrible things I believe her as a person–not a person I like or who has many redeeming qualities, but a realistic enough person to anchor a movie nonetheless. Her coworkers are also a solid bunch, effectively ranging from stern to complicit to foolish, however the further things get from the nurse’s orbit the more pointlessly outlandish and random everything becomes.
I’m not a big fan of characters like Regina, honestly. She’s a complete and utter dipshit to such an extreme it takes any tension, suspense, or anything by way of thrills out of the equation and it all feels like a live action cartoon that forgot to be funny. Regina’s hardly the only case of empty cartoonishness, with deficient cops/criminals/patients/nurses adding to the bench of “ha ha, look how dumb they are!” characters found in 12 Hour Shift. It all feels at odds with the fairly mundane setting and Bettis’ realistically weary portrayal of Mandy.
The abundance of Christianity all over the hospital setting also certainly caught my attention, from everyone’s cross earrings or necklaces to the chapel to bible posters on doors to Jesus fish in the breakroom to characters singing a hymn and more. This isn’t a criticism of 12 Hour Shift so much as an observation of the perturbing state of American healthcare in 1999 (though I doubt it’s much different in many places circa 2020, sadly).
Anyway, I’m sure many will find this entertaining enough for what it is–I’m just definitely not one of them. If the trailer below piques your interest and my criticisms aren’t deal breakers it couldn’t hurt to give 12 Hour Shift a shot. Fingers crossed you like it more than I did!
Adem lives with his husband, dog(s), & cat(s) in an Arizonian city where any time not spent with/on the previously mentioned creatures is filled with writing, rowing, baking, and whatever else the day brings.