The Last Shift – R – 1 hr 30 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched in theater Friday September 25, 2020
Regal 16 Cinemas – Lacey, Washington
#35 new movie seen in theater in 2020
Stanley (Richard Jenkins) has been working at Oscar’s Chicken & Fish for 38 years. He works the graveyard shift, giving great care and concern to how he makes Oscar’s signature chicken and beef burgers for late night drunk customers and the occasional friendly customer that, of course, recognize the seasoned employee. It’s his last week of work before he finally retires and new employee Javon (Shane Paul McGhie) is training to take over.
From literally the opening scene, this movie nails the art of the pregnant pause — but not in a good way. Every scene, including the opening one is dragged out until the viewer is suffocated by the silence. Music, sound, we don’t need any of that apparently. We’re in a dark theater and silence works at times, but not throughout almost entirely 90 minutes of run time.
The hardest films not to spoil in a no-spoiler review are the ones that suck the most. This film sucks more than a brand new industrial vacuum cleaner. Like if you put your face within five feet, you’ll be violently yanked into a void of depression and anger.
We didn’t know this movie was a comedy until I sat to write this review. Leaving the theater in our video review below, warning, warning, warning, you’ll hear both our disgust at what a monumental failure of a movie this turned out to be.
It’s a LIMITED release, so maybe the good news is it probably isn’t available in one of the few domestic theaters that are open in the United States.
Let me distill some of the important bits, trying not to ruin the film review fast food equivalent of a round hamburger disc that’s dropped on the floor and used to play shuffleboard by the employees. This, incidentally is a scene in the film — seriously! Viewers must ask themselves in horror, did they go ahead and cook those burgers and serve them to some hapless customers? O-M-G.
In 1971 Stanley and his friends witnessed a black student being attacked. They fled the scene, but ultimately it was a case of a bunch of racist white students (just a guess though, we’re never actually shown or told their race), probably in a school that was almost entirely white (again, left open to viewer interpretation), lynching a black student. Stanley is supposed to be like your typical racist old white guy, because he’s tried to put this terrible lack of doing the right thing out of his mind all these years. Viewers will immediately hate this guy. At least sane ones will.
There’s no sympathy for a coward that doesn’t stick up for another human being, either during the incident or summoning authorities or, when there is a trial, not standing up and calling out everybody involved in the murder. So, Stanley is someone viewers dislike pretty much instantly. We can’t pity Stanley for working 38 years in a seemingly dead end job. We don’t worry about his sick mother that he saves up money to get out of the nursing home. We don’t care that he can’t drive. We don’t like Stanley.
We think Stanley’s an idiot for carrying around his life savings in an old backpack around a bad part of town. We don’t care that Stanley didn’t finish high school and that he’s portrayed as uneducated and feeble-minded. We just can’t like this character — at all.
Enter Javon, the new employee. He’s hired by Chaz (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), the black woman manager who might possibly be the most likable character of the trio — unfortunately, we only get bits and pieces of her in the movie. I wouldn’t call out her skin color in this review, except it’s relevant in that the movie is not so thinly disguised to show the juxtaposition of stereotypes, racial inequality and lopsided power. It’s a story that’s been being told for umpteen years now and keeps getting repeated.
The problem is Javon is about as cliched a character as we’ll ever see on screen. He’s young, black, on probation, a father who must either stay employed or go back to jail. It’s not Javon’s legal troubles that we dislike as viewers, it’s his bad attitude and choices. He has a baby child and a beautiful girlfriend and doesn’t spend time with them, he’d rather be outside with his bad influence friends smoking weed.
So Stanley trains Javon into a job he doesn’t want, but has to have because it’s better than jail. Javon’s constant bashing of how much the job sucks is neither funny, entertaining or enjoyable while Stanley’s loyal employee foundation crumbling is supposed to pull viewers through this miserable 90 minute slog of a film.
Yes, we hated this film. I don’t mean disliked it a little. Hated it. There are so many positive stories that can be told in these already dark times that we don’t need another not so cleverly disguised movie about a racist and oppressed reforming criminal dressed up as a fast food worker and his protégé in their last week together.
The movie’s title is bogus, too. It’s about a week’s worth of “last” shifts. What happens on the very last shift is what we’re leading up to, so credit an extremely tiny amount of suspense, but by then most viewers will not care. They will have given up on this aborted comedy. I mean, what is funny about any of this story? It’s sad, depressing and frankly will just make both races angry. Yeah, that’s what we need in these times, a comedy to incite further controversy that nobody needs for entertainment.
Earlier in the day I listened to an interview with the former Seattle Police Chief who quit abruptly. If you haven’t seen the craziness going on in downtown Seattle on the news, it involves a 10-block downtown section of the city taken over by an angry group of people. The police response to this was to do almost nothing. It’s literally an example of a gang of lawless people taking it to the streets. One can only feel sorry for any business or property owner inside this renegade ring. Our idiotic City Council wants to reduce the police budget by laying off 100 police officers, part of the moronic “defund the police” movement. That sure will help, right? Wrong.
So, after a morning listening to the former police chief making almost $300,000 a year and now retiring to a pension that will pay her six figures after working some 30 years on the force, reciting how she quit because she couldn’t do the job on the ham-string budget she was given. After this, my wife and I go out to be entertained watching a movie that is billed incorrectly as a comedy — because there isn’t anything remotely funny about it — we pay to watch a film that is the textbook example of unwatchable. The popcorn was old and terrible, the soda tasted like the syrup lines hadn’t been cleaned in the last week. Employees looked like zombies behind the counters waiting for somebody to come through to serve. Argh, what a horrible cinematic experience.
Other moviegoers were smart. Friday night at 8pm, where to be? Not at the movie theater for trash films like this. It was a ghost town, barely a few other people in the theater. Maybe a scattered few were rewatching Tenet for the second or third time, trying to understand that glorious spectacle.
An awful night at the movies. If this is what it’s going to be like the next two months until No Time To Die James Bond tries to save the cinematic day, just shut it all down — again.
Bottom line: avoid this fast food greasy dumpster fire abomination, unless you want to see a poorly told story of black = bad, white = worse than bad, both together = miserably bad. Hopelessly depressing, devoid of almost any redeeming, watchable character, save for the barely attempting to reform criminal young adult who isn’t even remotely likeable except maybe, perhaps, debatable five minutes of the movie.
Rating (out of 5 stars): ½