Jamie Foxx stars as the unlucky vampire hunter in Day Shift, his second major Netflix film after the same comic. Project Strength. A tongue-in-cheek throwback to Michael Bay’s glory days—at least when it doesn’t actively remind you of Netflix’s early tentpole Bright—Day Shift is the kind of film where an old female vampire spit out black goo at the hero in the first scene. But it’s also the kind of movie where the hero stumbles and falls, immediately after throwing up. No one is taking themselves too seriously here.
Directed by debutant JJ Perry and produced by Chad Stahelski (film director John Wick), Day Shift feels like a film conceptualized as one thing, but (perhaps after being bitten in the neck) turned into something. other from time to time. It is co-written by Shay Hatten, a 28-year-old who has worked on three of Zack Snyder’s films and several projects in the John Wick franchise. He’s likely behind the construction of the elaborate world of Day Shift, which includes the flickering evidence that the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter films may be canonical for this universe, and a lengthy exposition of the vampire faction.
Set in the modern day San Fernando Valley—although the oversaturated visuals, comedic humor of friends, and Peter Stormare’s cameo may remind viewers of ’90s action movies—Day Shift combines an overly straightforward man-on-a-mission plot with dense lore. it’s not just about the vampires roaming freely among us, but also the unions who keep an eye on working class hunters like Bud Jablonski from Foxx.
After a series of abuses, Bud is kicked out of the union and forced to sell his wares—vampire fangs and the like—on the black market. Penniless and estranged from his wife, Bud is reinstated as a union member, but on one condition. He will be allowed to do business with only a companion—a papermaker named Seth, played by Dave Franco.
He’s a tacky foil to cocky Bud. Seth has the rule book memorized, considers weapons ‘immoral’, and is very proud of his latest purchase – an ergonomic chair for his office desk. So when he was ordered to accompany Bud on the ‘hunt’ and report back to his boss when Bud was out of line, Seth was thrown completely out of his comfort zone. But under the threat of the vampires who had ruled over the night and now wanted to seize the day, he had no choice but to follow orders and come along.
Franco has previously appeared in supporting roles in the two Jump Street reboot films, and while Day Shift is more action-leaning and doesn’t warrant a Lord-Miller comparison, it has the same odd pairing energy as the films. Jokes rarely land, but the action is regularly engaging — and in Christopher Nolan’s own potentially pleasing surprise, mostly practical. From acrobatics in battle sequences to drone photography in intricate car chases sandwiched between two film halves, there’s humor to set-pieces that feels rare in this era of belly-button action filmmaking.
Somewhat problematic, however, the ’90s vibe (perhaps by accident) also invites some casual sexism in the script. Of course Bud’s ex-wife ‘snapped’ their daughter from him, and of course porn stars (girls) are equated with aliens. The film could have easily avoided this misstep, without losing its composure in the slightest. But either in its excitement to honor the kind of film it has inspired, or—and it’s more likely—no one else involved knows better, Day Shift represents the best and worst of that era.
Either way, it’s still a marked improvement from the recent one Netflix action moviesincluding unwatchable friends comedy Man from Toronto, the very cheap Carter, and the much more famous (but very bad) The Gray Man. I judge by the curve, as praising a film like Day Shift serves as a reminder of how dark things really are.
Director – JJ Perry
Cast – Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco, Meagan Good, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Snoop Dogg
Rating – 3/5