Despite the formidable presence of Angela Bettis, 12 Hour Shift is a half-assed and visionless throwaway.
2002 was a breakout year for actress Angela Bettis, as she portrayed the title roles in two distinctly original films about murderous introverts — Lucky McKee’s magnificent May and the Sci-Fi Channel remake of Stephen King’s Carrie. The critical accolades came pouring in, as did the cult followings, but stardom seemed to elude the young actress, forever trapped in typecasting hell thanks to her ability to seamlessly slip into the skin of such troubled protagonists. 18 years later, and Bettis is still getting cast in low-budget horror flicks like 12 Hour Shift, projects unworthy of her talents, even as her mere presence elevates the material. She certainly carries this particular enterprise entirely on her stooped shoulders, playing a drug-addicted nurse involved in an illegal organ-trafficking scheme who encounters one challenge after another during an exceptionally grueling night at work. The camera loves Bettis’s weathered face, as it projects a mixture of haunted, exhausted, slightly crazed, and what can only be described as “Holly Hunter.” It both entices and repels the viewer; it teases the unknown, leaving the audience wanting to know more, while at the same time, promising of horrifying secrets it might hold — and, here, it certainly holds a few.
Writer-director Brea Grant knows she has an ace up her sleeve, which might explain why everything else here feels so half-assed. 12 Hour Shift is a film that revels in its escalating insanity but can never seem to find the momentum to match, perpetually stuck in third-gear. It tries so hard to be clever that it ends up simply grating; weird, but never weird enough. More illustratively, it’s the kind of movie that tries to do a cast sing-a-long a la Magnolia but then stops abruptly because…well, it’s not even clear. In another scene, a beautiful blonde woman seductively throws Cheetos at a man in a parking lot, before Grant captures in close-up a chunky platform shoe crushing one because that’s probably someone’s fetish somewhere, and isn’t that edgy? All of the film’s characters are unlikeable, murderous assholes, yet none of their actions are as nasty as the self-satisfied script believes them to be, which proves a thoroughly obnoxious consistency. And how do you cast WWF star The Undertaker as a criminal kingpin with a fetish for forced belly button piercings, or David Arquette as a cop-killing murderer, and then proceed to give them absolutely nothing to do? None of the jokes land — including, of all things, a dancing EMT. The lighting is absolutely atrocious, and the majority of the performances are community theater replacement level. And yet, in spite of this laundry list of bad decisions and woeful executions, there stands Bettis at the center of it all, dignity somehow still intact, giving 110% to a character whose palpable exasperation could very well be a by-product of the actress’s own frustrations, knowingly stuck in another dud. We don’t deserve her; neither does 12 Hour Shift.