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“Shift” Entrances Until It Doesn’t

Written by: Matt Patti | March 17th, 2024

Shift (Max Neace, 2024) 2½ out of 5 stars

A noir thriller taking place in a single location, Shift is the feature-directorial debut of Max Neace, who is also the writer. Neace previously worked on the producing side of things, with many roles as both associate producer and producer on a few films in the early 2020s before taking on this project. His first foray into directing is a bit of a rocky outing, but with as many ups as there are downs.

Shift takes place in the late 1990s and almost entirely within “Your Storage,” a storage unit facility in Chicago. New hire Tom (Connor McGill) takes a position as the facility’s night security guard, looking for a way to make some money while avoiding having to talk to his mother at night. With cameras displaying live views of every hallway in the place, Tom has a complete view of everything on the monitors in front of him.

Connor McGill in SHIFT @9films

Naturally bored during one of his shifts, Tom decides to keep tabs on everyone who enters that night, including regular customer Mrs. Jones (Allison McAtee, Desperate Widows), whom he sees taking a man, who is not her husband, into a storage unit. While Tom imagines all that could be going on inside, the whole situation takes a turn when Tom sees Mrs. Jones exit the unit without said man. Tom soon finds himself in the middle of a very suspicious situation, one with more secrets and dangers than he could ever have imagined.       

Neace manages to create an enthralling noir atmosphere that puts the viewer in a sort of trance. For a film with only a single primary location, he makes the most of it by bringing the outside world into the small security room in which Tom works. Neace does this through a particularly soothing radio that Tom plays during every shift.

Angela Alise in SHIFT @9films

The radio tells the audience of current events in the outside world, plays hits of the era, and also features a strangely seductive late-night show where listeners from around Chicago call in to talk about a variety of matters with a smooth-voiced woman. So, even though we are confined to a small space, we get a good overview of everything else happening in 1990s Chicago and feel part of that world without ever seeing it. Even though I was alive for only 3 years in the 1990s, this film has a way of giving even those without fond ‘90s memories a sense of nostalgia and a feeling of wanting to be in that time and space.

The setting of the film is surprisingly fitting for a noir-style thriller, and the mystery is mostly intriguing throughout. The viewer is kept invested during most of the runtime, quite often feeling just as nosy as Tom in terms of the goings-on in the facility. The film is well paced, never too rushed or too slow, and builds quality suspense along the way.

Sean O’Bryan in SHIFT @9films

With a perfect backdrop and intriguing mystery, the film almost triumphs, but not quite. Unfortunately, there are a few poorer aspects that break the mood. Most notably, Neace makes a very strange decision to interject extremely loud heavy metal music, at seemingly random times, that is like nails on a chalkboard. I’m unsure why he felt the need, as goes completely against the rest of the film’s style and is quite jarring and unnecessary.

Furthermore, what’s also a bit distracting is the cast. McGill’s performance is a bit wishy-washy, passable at times but noticeably subpar at others. The rest of the ensemble is also not very memorable, fine fits for their roles but without standouts. There are also a few more unnecessary inclusions in the story that frustrate, such as that of a subtitled talking chair and an over-convoluted series of twists at the end.

l-r: Sean O’Bryan, Connor McGill, and Allison McAtee in publicity still for SHIFT ©9films

Overall, the atmosphere and intriguing mystery at the center of Shift will draw viewers into its world and make them want to stay. However, shortcomings eventually distract us, even as yearn to stay in it. For a feature debut of a writer-director, I do think the end product is an impressive work, and I think it’s worth checking out, even if just for some relaxation and nostalgia.

[Shift just played at Cinequest 2024.]


Matt Patti has enjoyed voicing his opinions on films from a young age. He has lived in the Baltimore, Maryland, area since 2015 and is a graduate of Stevenson University’s Film & Moving Image program. Matt is currently back at Stevenson University, working as the School of Design, Arts, and Communication's Studio Manager.

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