Review by Sean Boelman
The newest film from actress-turned-writer-director Brea Grant, 12 Hour Shift is a stylish retro genre picture that desperately wants to be thrilling. However, no matter how much fun it may be at times, the absence of substantial character arcs prevents the movie from being much more than passive entertainment
The film follows a nurse over the course of one all-night shift as she gets involved in a heist tied to the black market organ trade that doesn’t go according to plan. Although there is no shortage of conflict to be found, that is almost part of the problem, as the relentless nature of the movie becomes overwhelming at times, particularly during the second act.
There are simply too many storylines happening at the same time for the film to feel cohesive. Eventually, all of the different threads end up tying together, but not in a way that is particularly satisfying. And for the first two thirds of the movie, the audience is often drawn out of the main storyline into a subplot that is nowhere near as interesting.
Another issue with the film is that the character development isn’t entirely effective. It’s clear that Grant hopes to blur the lines between hero and villain here, but it doesn’t work. The protagonist isn’t a compelling lens through which the audience can view the story, and a lot of the supporting characters come across as frustrating.
That said, the actors do a solid enough job in their roles, even if their performances are mostly one-note. Angela Bettis plays the lead and she is able to carry the movie despite not having to show a lot of range. In the supporting cast, Chloe Farnworth is pretty amusing and David Arquette gives a memorable cameo, but one will be left wishing for more from his character.
And if almost by luck, Grant’s film is surprisingly timely given the crisis that the world is experiencing at the moment. Beyond all the blood and genre tropes, Grant’s movie has something to say about the exploitation of medical workers, and it’s a message that is more important than ever as nurses around the globe find a greater burden being placed on their shoulders.
Grant also does a good job of giving the film a very clear sense of style, and this is a big part of what makes the movie so much fun to watch. Since all but a few scenes take place within a hospital, Grant is able to take advantage of the camera and production design to make the viewer feel like they are legitimately a part of the moment.
Ultimately, Brea Grant’s 12 Hour Shift is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some very fun moments, but had a few of the inessential subplots been trimmed, it could have been much more effective as a thriller.
12 Hour Shift was set to debut at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.
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