Watching a movie during the COVID-19 pandemic that features a main character who is a nurse with a drug problem who has found herself selling organs on the black market in order to make extra money should definitely be considered counter-programming. Despite the dark look at a much appreciated (and often underappreciated) profession, Brea Grant’s second feature film – 12 Hour Shift (2020) – grabs you and demands that you watch the mayhem unfold while using a variety of cinematic techniques to help move the story along.
Mandy (Angela Bettis) has just started her shift, and she clearly doesn’t want to be there. Exhausted from the job, she starts it off snorting some crushed up pills and delivering a bag of organs to her half-cousin Regina (Chloe Farnworth), who manages to leave the organs next to a soda machine. Her boss is rightly pissed off and threatens to take her kidney if she doesn’t replace the lost one. Now, Mandy and Regina look to salvage the deal and save themselves by securing a new kidney while navigating an ever-busy hospital.
This film feels reminiscent of Nurse Jackie, as does Bettis’ performance. Mandy is mostly angry, bitter, or sarcastic…but there are moments where the caring person – perhaps even a bit idealistic at some point – that guided her into this career is still there, buried under exhaustion and addiction. There is a patient on dialysis that she considers killing for a moment – most likely because of his complaints about how much time he has left – yet she doesn’t, because she takes to him. A smile and compassion show with him, as well as a few other moments throughout the film. Every time Mandy starts to seem almost misanthropic, a glimmer of kindness shines, reminding the audience that there is, in fact, hope for her.
Grant does some interesting things with the camera throughout the film. There is a montage that shows Mandy working through a pan, and almost match cuts that work quite well. At one point, Mandy gets to running, and the camera follows in a one-take, handheld way that fits the action. The absolute most inspired moment in the whole film has to be the crosscutting scene where Mandy and Regina separately but simultaneously believe they’ve found the solution to their problems. While they both go to work, Dorothy (Tara Perry) is shown sitting in the chapel and begins singing a song that is quite contrary and yet appropriate to the visuals. It’s such a great scene and really gets to the heart of the dark comedy this film has been brandishing.
12 Hour Shift is definitely not going to work for everybody. However, if you have a dark sense of humor or are willing to watch bad things happen with a bit of levity to them, then this is worth your time. From the performances to the cinematography, there is much to appreciate here in seeing the potential that Grant brings to the film world. 12 Hour Shift earns a Decent Watch rating.