Arkansas, 1999, and nurse Mandy is pulling double duty at the hospital with a 12 hour shift, another through-the-night saga of dialysis, dementia, drug overdoses and failed suicide attempts by the murderer who was brought in handcuffed to his gurney. She’s not a social worker, she’s not a clairvoyant, but fortunately nor does she face the night alone.
Behind the desk is her supervisor Karen, at her side is her scripture-quoting colleague Dorothy, while in her pocket beside her thermometer are a stolen handful of vials of morphine and in her bloodstream are the crushed tablets she snorted at the start of her shift, while at her feet is a Ziploc bag of organs.
In the basement by the soda machine waits Mandy’s cousin Regina, a woman so dumb she would struggle to fall over if it wasn’t for gravity yet who somehow took the role of courier in this illicit organ harvesting operation and who has somehow managed to misplace an urgently needed kidney. With one hour to find a replacement after which her own innards become forfeit, Regina begs for help from Mandy who already has more than enough problems for one night.
Written and directed by Brea Grant, 12 Hour Shift is a blood-splattered black comedy of bad decisions, bad timing and a fundamental lack of judgement in the choice of criminal accomplices, a simple premise which spirals chaotically out of control following one lapse of attention.
As Mandy, Angela Bettis masters the contradictions of nursing, clinical and efficient when she has to be yet kind to those who need it, and despite her unfortunate habit of occasionally bumping off patients still manages to be a good nurse in a crisis, tending to the injured without judgement and unphased when threatened with violence or when dishing it out.
Like The Talented Mr. Ripley, as deplorable as her actions are the audience is on the side of Mandy, wanting her somehow to get through her shift without major injury or drawing the attention of the police, for scrutiny is the last thing needed and the first thing offered in the event of unexpected deaths.
Supported by an ensemble including Chloe Farnworth, Nikea Gamby-Turner, Kit Williamson and David Arquette, from doped coffee to parking lot surgery Mandy’s world is a one of battlefield triage in which the immediate issue takes precedence and long term planning is something which takes place when the crisis is over; as long as she stays on her feet, she has a chance.
As with all organ harvesting dramas, the question of immune system compatibility and complications of organ rejection are sidestepped but the pace is sufficiently frantic that the oversight never becomes an issue, and with the humour cutting deep 12 Hour Shift is in equal parts uncomfortable and inappropriately hilarious.