When everyone’s a bit strapped for cash, the brain can suddenly become adept at conjuring up some way of earning a quick buck. Often, it’ll be about taking a sudden interest in the lottery, or working out how long that elderly relative of yours has got left. You know the one.
In Australian comedy, Night Shift from director Joey Menzel, two brothers come up with the plan to rob their local petrol station, believing it to have untold wealth in the safe. If you’ve seen the Welsh comedy, Convenience, which has a similar storyline, you’ll know exactly where this is going.
When the brothers, Des (Jesse Morton) and Bobby (Anthony Winnick) find out that the servo’s safe is on a time lock, they take the cashier hostage and pretend to be employees until the lock goes click. What follows is a sort of comedy of errors as the duo must keep up pretences to the various customers coming in, who eventually become hostages in the boys’ forever-getting-out-of-control plan.
With Kevin Smith being a clear influence on the film, Menzel keeps the action within the confines of the servo, only occasionally venturing outside for flashbacks that show how the guys have ended up in such a mess. Another big influence is in the dialogue and humour. Smith’s debut, Clerks, hit the screens in 1994 and brought with it ‘snowballs’, jokes about the Chinese and references to the number 37 that will be indelible in some people. Night Shift appears to be trying to go a similar route with little success.
When Indian cashier Amiey (Reuben Jacob) is not being called a racial slur, his blatant homosexuality is played out in a punchline that sees him regularly groping Des and bringing up the suggestion that he might want to be sexually assaulted by the robber. Elsewhere, Bobby puts on voices to pretend at one point that he’s Indian and later, mentally challenged. Each of these jokes lands as gracefully as a duck with no wings. Even fans of Clerks will admit that times have moved on.
On a positive note, Menzel has a good handle on the camera and an eye for the bombastic. See the opening credits, where Des flies through town on top of a deliberately broken gas canister like he’s Major Kong in Dr Strangelove. Elsewhere, the cast give it their all and show off their comedic talents when the jokes do hit.
On the eve of Tribeca Film festival’s hotly anticipated 20th anniversary edition, June 9 - 20, two Australian films are set to go head-to-head against each other at the festival’s prestigious Documentary Competition section.