Los Angeles is heavily stacked with fast-moving losses, as David Anderson (Michael Madison) quickly learns when Primo Mortgage, the high-powered financial company he works for, suddenly disappears as swiftly as most of the computer files so that the feds can’t find them. What can he do now? Where can he go? It becomes even worse when his semi-lavish L.A. lifestyle is threatened when the corporate bank accounts and credit cards are frozen by the government in the process of the fastest-moving investigation of any company in film history. But there’s reasons for that because the company doesn’t matter all that much. It’s David’s story.
David sounds like fodder for a wildly-played comedic caricature staggering around L.A. in a daze, wondering how it all went wrong, while making a fool of himself in an attempt to try to build a new life. But this is not that kind of film and co-writer/actor/director/editor Michael Madison (The first quadruple threat I’ve been witness to who doesn’t strain under the weight of all that responsibility) has such a sensitive soul and a good heart through all he does for “Shifted” that not only do his fellow actors follow suit, but it becomes a film just as much about us as it is about David. What would we do in this situation? Is it worse not to have any money and completely lose our lifestyle or to learn that we were part of a company that swindled millions of dollars and left a lot of investors and customers in the lurch? Primo Mortgage isn’t Enron-big, and its off-screen investors are assured by the police that their money will be recovered, based on what the police tell David, who is unknowingly involved by the boxes he takes with him from the company that include various folders with important papers and his laptop computer which contains the necessary data that will implicate the heads of the company, one, a burly hard-faced broad-shouldered man (Rhino Michaels) who acts on the orders of the former East Coast head of operations, running the last of things from prison. But Enron-big, small enough to be insignificant, what’s worse?
Unlike his girlfriend Rachel (Jill Wagner, who strikes the right balance to us between being ticked at Rachel because of her shallowness and understanding what makes her that way. When you’re in L.A. and there’s a potential modeling career being molded, what else can one be?), David isn’t one of the L.A. types who are so hopelessly two-dimensional that they can only see their own lives happening. Other lives do not happen around them. The bedragged homeless guy wandering the sidewalk is a 50 mph blur.
When he learns of the company’s downfall, David is more worried about those people whom he promised jobs to and one of them he calls with the bad news is extremely quiet toward him, barely blurting out words of acknowledgement. Clearly, when there’s the promise of a job, it means more than the next sunrise, especially for this one guy who looks like he could have used the work.
And at the same time, “Shifted” is also about class distinctions. You’ll find a lot of that in movies set in Los Angeles and especially here, where David goes from a well-furnished apartment to living at the local storage facility, inside one of the storage spaces, under the eventual tutelage of Marcos (Jeris Lee Poindexter) and Joe (Frankie Ray), who simply live their lives. They know the streets. They know when the facility’s proprietor has someone walk around to inspect the spaces to make sure no one is hanging around, and that’s the time to make sure they’re inside one of the spaces, making no noise until that person is gone. But most of the time, despite this, it’s always the woman with the blonde wig walking around. Besides Madison’s innate sensibilities toward David as well as his attention in his writing towards the other people who share their lives with this new inductee to the streets, Jeris Lee Poindexter is the other major revelation. He is as reliable as the method Marcos uses to get free pizza, as certain as David is in wanting to try to get his old life back before just deciding to find some sort of a life that keeps him a person. Poindexter uses his entire body for the role. Besides Marcos’ words, his face speaks as much as his height. To others who might walk by him, he’s nothing, but to David and certainly to us watching, he’s definitely something.
Madison also has an uncanny way of luxuriating in the confines of the running time. He introduces a potential new love interest in Catherine (Vanessa Johansson, the older sister of Scarlett) who works at the Midnight Mission homeless shelter which David goes to while in denial about his rapidly unfolding situation, telling her that he’s just there to help out. But Madison doesn’t let the attraction immediately happen and leaves her for later, and it’s wise, because David’s story keeps building and building, slowly and with much concentration.
However, there are contrivances afoot with that burly co-boss of the fraudulent company rushing to search for David (predictably, the man roughs up a few people), but with how rich and character-driven all of this turns out to be (even two montages involving David and Marcos deepen the friendship without corniness), it’s not entirely forgettable, but easily forgiveable.
It’s a testament to Madison and all others with him that when the storage facility owner approaches the floor Marcos, David, and Joe are on, it’s actually a moment of suspense in wondering if they’ll make it back to the storage space quick enough to hide. There’s a lot within these characters to care about and it keeps on working, all the way through.