1/9/15

NIGHT SHIFT - REVIEW


With Michael Keaton's comeback pretty much sealed and ready to take effect, I thought I'd revisit one of my own personal movies starring the actor: Night Shift.

The film, directed by Ron Howard of all people, is a comedy in which Henry Winkler plays mild-mannered morgue attendant Chuck who is made to work the night shift with ebullient, fast-talking new recruit Bill (Keaton). While their completely different personalities fail to gel initially, Bill's constant flow of ridiculous business plans finally leads to an idea Chuck ends up going along with. Chuck's neighbour Belinda (Shelley Long), a prostitute, is left pimp-less after some shady goings-on involving the competition and Bill's plan to become "Love Brokers" with Chuck soon becomes a reality. The unlikely duo is soon working with a group of prostitutes, running their totally legit business harmoniously. Soon enough, of course, their success becomes threatened and Chuck's relationship with Belinda starts getting in the way of the latter's profession.

The idea of morgue attendants becoming pimps is a strange one to even come up with but it makes for some great black comedy material. You could easily take the exact same concept and make a really dark and gritty Cronenbergian thriller but, somehow, Ron Howard makes it work perfectly as it is. Henry "The Fonz" Winkler nails the meek, neurotic ex-stock broker brilliantly and Shelley Long is instantly likeable as the most approachable and together prostitute you'll ever meet. All that said, it is Michael Keaton who steals the show from the very moment he walks into the movie, head-banging and humming along to a rock classic on his Walkman like Otto in The Simpsons. Every time he's on screen, it's like the movie promptly injects itself with a thick shot of adrenaline. The sharp script comes to life when Keaton and Winkler bounce lines off each other and the film is consistently very funny and clever. There's a naive enthusiasm to Bill and his random ideas that makes him both annoying and endearing but that's not to say he's a one-dimensional character. Eventually, you do get to see another, less cartoonish side to him which is refreshing.

It's a shame that Ron Howard didn't direct more comedies like this one but fans of Michael Keaton should definitely check out Night Shift: this is an underwatched gem you'll want to revisit if only for the aforementioned actor's ridiculously fun performance.

Gotta love those love brokers.

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