“Shifted” presents a broke, middle-management yuppie who moves into a storage facility. While the premise hints towards down-and-out comedy, the film begins as a paranoid thriller. David Anderson (Michael Madison, also the film’s co-writer, editor, and director) learns that his job has virtually disappeared in the hands of his plotting, seamy boss, Robert (Rhino Michaels). Before you can say unemployment insurance (which appears to be unknown in this movie’s universe), the jobless David soon finds his life falling apart. The plot device that throws him into a downward spiral, and would suggest fast-paced action ahead, takes a trip around LA County before it appears again.
After a head-jerking shift in tone, the viewer realizes that it’s time for soul searching. Along with the repossession of his car (occurring in a scenario as credible as an SNL skit), David loses his girlfriend (Jill Wagner of MTV’s “Punked”), a model with a penchant for tops cut extremely low and skirts that end not much lower. Their spontaneous breakup scene is so poorly performed that we’re left wondering if Wagner had trouble believing in her paper-thin character. David’s other trials may have been as puzzling to Madison himself, since he performs as if confused over his own script. When Act One finishes up, you’ll be hard pressed to imagine another contrivance for David to face … until one drops out of the sky.
While storing his belongings in an indoor facility, David discovers two squatters residing therein and joins them. Granted, his firing did force him to ax one of his buddies, but it’s dumbfounding to imagine why he has no other friends who could offer him a place to crash. When his character rises one morning following a time lapse – now wearing a mop and full beard à la Tom Hanks in “Cast Away” – Madison appears more comfortable acting under excessive hair. The narrative gimmicks continue as David conveniently meets and falls for a welfare mission worker (Vanessa Johansson, older sister of Scarlett), and Robert returns for data he hid in David’s laptop. (Don’t ask why – I’m unsure if the writers even know.)
The only spark in David’s journey is Marcos (Jeris Lee Poindexter, “Akeelah and the Bee”), one of the cohorts in the storage facility. While a bit awkward (but miles ahead of the rest of the cast), Poindexter is credible as a man undaunted by life on the skids. If Madison and co-writer/producer Linda J. Nelson understood the strengths of their cast, they might have opted for a faux documentary centered on Poindexter’s character – however, it’s uncertain if the seasoned actor could manage with such unskilled writing and direction.