Good performances can't save shaky script in "Last Shift"

Richard Jenkins (right) and Shane Paul McGhie appear in a scene from "The Last Shift."

“The Last Shift” is a film that’s well-acted – especially from its two leads – and has some interesting possibilities, but it is all undermined by a subpar script.

You can see that writer/director Andrew Cohn had the ingredients in place for a solid indie drama. Too bad the end result is severely undercooked.

“The Last Shift” stars Richard Jenkins as Stanley, an aging fast-food worker on the third shift at a chicken-and-fish chain in Michigan who has decided to move on after 38 years and head to Florida to care for his ailing mother.

Stanley is tasked with training his replacement Jevon (Shane Paul McGhie), a young man just out of jail who has taken the job as part of his parole agreement.

While Stanley sees his position not only as an integral part of the restaurant, but an important service for the community, Jevon sees it as temporary work to help him get back on his feet.

Cohn’s script gives these two characters plenty of chances to verbally clash on their differing views of the job – and society as a whole. Jenkins and McGhie have really good chemistry and play off each other well. When they are allowed to have honest and frank discussions is when “The Last Shift” is at its best.

There are some other interesting characters sprinkled in as well – including Ed O’ Neill as Stanley’s longtime friend and Da’Vine Joy Randolph as the store manager. Like the two leads, they bring some really authentic moments that keep “Shift” afloat for a while.

But even this talented cast can’t overcome some weird decisions Cohn makes in the script. It slowly devolves into something that resembles a failed sitcom pilot, with plot threads that are never fully developed and one thread late in the film that is so out of place it completely changes the tone of everything that proceeded it.

When this moment happens it paints “The Last Shift” into a corner that it never really finds its way out of it. I will give Cohn credit for not going the obvious route, but the route he has ultimately chose is a dead end.

It’s really a shame because Jenkins and McGhie bring a lot to “The Last Shift.” They deserve a better movie to showcase their talents.

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