Movies

‘Day Shift’ Is One Of Netflix’s Better Attempts At A Fun, Dumb Streamer

In the last few months, Netflix has made headlines for bleeding subscribers and for blowing $200 million on its widely panned attempt at an action franchise starter, Gray Man, starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans. Between that and the similarly dull and lame Bullet Train (from Sony), it seems everyone is trying (and failing) to get into the dopey fun action movie game. (See also: Nobody, from 2021).

So when I saw that Netflix’s latest title, Day Shift, was a seemingly cutesy-kitschy action comedy starring Jamie Foxx as a vampire hunter (vampires being arguably the second-laziest pre-fab genre behind zombies), I did not have high hopes. Yet I was pleasantly surprised.

I’m not going to tell you that Day Shift will make waves come awards season or that you’ll still be thinking about it months from now, but it feels far closer to what the makers of Bullet Train, Gray Man, Nobody, et. al. were going for than any of those movies. Which is to say that it’s a silly action comedy where the action is actually fun, the jokes mostly land, and neither detracts from the other. All in all a reasonably fun streamer.

Jamie Foxx plays Bud Jablonski, a name I’m reasonably certain no other Black man has ever had, a San Fernando Valley vampire hunter masquerading as a pool guy. The script, from Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten, sees Jablonski as down on his luck, having been ejected from the vampire hunter’s union and on the verge of having his ex-wife and daughter move away because he can’t afford her school tuition. Within that Liar Liar-esque frame, Jablonski inhabits a world where vampire hunters are a kind of blue-collar necessity, controlling SoCal’s “vamp” population and collecting when they bring in their quarry’s extracted fangs (which are graded and sized, like precious stones). Without the union, Jablonski is reduced to selling his fangs at pawn shop prices to a predatory black marketeer played by Peter Stormare (aka Karl Hungus).

Directed by ex-stunt guy JJ Perry, Day Shift opens with a fight scene that lasts a solid ten minutes of screen time, and to my surprise given the experience with other American action comedies, it was solidly entertaining the whole time. So much stunt work these days is strenuously choreographed and acrobatically performed, but still constrained by arbitrary rules of “realism.” Which is silly, because it isn’t realistic to begin with. We know Liam Neeson and Bob Odenkirk and even Keanu Reeves and anyone who look like them aren’t going to be throwing up flying armbars and spinning back fists in real life, so why make us suspend disbelief just to see them doing fancy MMA moves we’ve already seen? Go further.

Day Shift‘s injection of the supernatural — in the form of vampires that can regenerate body parts and can only be killed by stakes, silver bullets, and beheadings and whatnot — almost by accident adds the room for stylization so recent many stunt-based movies have been missing. It’s not that interesting to watch Jamie Foxx’s stunt double triangle choke people and do fancy pistol work, but throw in some gory beheadings and vampires who crab walk and smash through walls and suddenly it’s a new ball game. Day Shift isn’t RRR, but it’s decently fun.

In his quest to rejoin the union, Jablonski’s friend Big John Elliot, a sort of cowboy pimp played by Snoop Dogg, vouches for him, but the disapproving union boss played by Eric Lange sticks Jablonski with a persnickety union rep (Dave Franco), tasked with burying Jablonski in citations. From there Day Shift becomes a sort of odd couple/buddy cop kind of movie with Foxx and Franco.

The plot is largely utilitarian but it’s grounded in place (the San Fernando Valley) and the joke writing is just clever enough to make it work. To keep the dead vampire musk off of him, which other vampires can apparently smell, Jablonski recommends to Dave Franco’s character a harsh, neon yellow soap to scrub himself with thoroughly. Though, he warns, gravely, “Don’t get it in your butthole.”

Day Shift‘s writing is inventive where most movies like this are merely tedious; its fight choreography stylized where most movies like this are merely competent (B-movie action master Scott Adkins even shows up in a minor role). Is there a lot of character development? No. Could it have been 15 minutes shorter? Probably. Could the villains’ motives have been more clearly conveyed? Sure. But in the context of the recent crop of “fun” action movies, Day Shift is one of the few I’ve seen that actually justifies such billing.

‘Day Shift’ hits Netflix August 12, 2022. Vince Mancini is on Twitter. You can access his archive of reviews here.

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