12 Hour Shift

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

12 Hour Shift
"A splatter-happy romp through one night in the organ trade." | Photo: Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

In and around all the glamour and violence of Hollywood's interpretation, crucial facts about organised crime often get lost. For the most part, it operates like any other business, with supply chain issues and codes of conduct. It aims to do so as quietly and civilly as possible so as not to attract unwanted attention. And just like any other business, it has to deal with incompetent trainees.

Regina (Chloe Farnworth) is slow to grasp the rules on her first day as an organ trafficker. She arrives at the drop-off point with the cooler as planned, but the kidney is was supposed to contain is missing. With a criminal VIP in urgent need of a transplant, her boss is understandably displeased. He makes it very clear: if she doesn't get him another kidney within the next couple of hours, he'll consider taking one of hers.

Why is the obviously incompetent Regina doing this job in the first place? It's all about who you know. Her cousin (by marriage), Mandy (Angela Bettis) is a more seasoned member of the operation, a nurse who bumps off patients whom she dislikes or does not expect to survive and discreetly removes their organs in order to make a bit of cash on the side. She and colleague Karen (Nikea Gamby-Turner) have a well organised system that keeps them out of trouble, but everything is thrown into chaos when Regina arrives demanding another organ. If Mandy doesn't arrange it, she says, she'll take one from a patient herself. As if there weren't enough to contend with on the night shift, soon there's blood and body parts all over the place, rumours of a serial killer are spreading and the police have turned up to keep the staff and patients safe. As usual, it's up to the drug-addicted Mandy to find a solution.

A splatter-happy romp through one night in the organ trade, 12 Hour Shift is messy in places but has no shortage of entertaining moments. Farnworth is all pouting lips, bouncing blond curls and sharp comic timing as the quirky but ruthless Regina, whilst Bettis and Gamby-Turner perfectly capture the disillusioned fortitude of nurses who have had to put up with too much for too little for too long. Despite its playful tone, the film is grimly realistic about the kind of things nurses have to put up with day to day, and life isn't great for the patients either - even if they're not being sized up as possible donors, they're stuck in the waiting room for hours whilst Karen expertly knocks back their attempts to find out what's going on. Nobody here is presented as a role model but under the circumstances it's easy to understand Mandy's habit.

With subplots around family obligation and a potentially dangerous prisoner (David Arquette) who is being kept under guard in a private room, 12 Hour Shift keeps coming up with new ways to derail its protagonists' simple plans. It manages to address the mundane horrors of underpaid hospital work with unexpected liveliness, and though it won't be everyone's cup of tea, it certainly succeeds in doing something different.

Reviewed on: 23 Jan 2021
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12 Hour Shift packshot
Nurse Mandy is just trying to make it through her double shift alive, but her nasty drug addiction, annoying coworkers, needy patients, and devious cousin are making it pretty tough, not to mention organ-stealing criminals and an injured convict.
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