MOVIE REVIEW – Day Shift is another addition to Netflix’s lineup of big-budget, self-produced action movies, this time focusing on vampires in a sultry action-comedy. It stars Jaime Foxx, who has seen better films and roles, and who pales pretty much compared to the other vampire-hunting action hero Wesley Snipes was in this genre with Blade.
Last August, Jamie Foxx starred in Netflix’s blockbuster Project Power, which tried to take the usual superhero genre and turn it into something new, resulting in one of the platform’s most-watched self-produced films. Almost a year later, the Oscar-winning actor is back in the lead role in Day Shift, a film that Netflix is aiming to do much the same as last year. We could list countless other examples of how well silly action movies and action comedies do for Netflix, so we’d be willing to bet that they won’t be ‘screwed’ in terms of ratings with this vampire movie. It’s just that we have expectations in this genre too…
The action is OK
For those who really just want a popcorn action movie, Day Shift will not disappoint. There’s no doubt that the action sequences are professional, thanks partly to the fact that the film has been joined by a wealth of extraordinary talent on both sides of the camera. First-time director J.J. Perry can justifiably hope to follow in the footsteps of John Wick’s Chad Stahelski, Deadpool 2’s David Leitch and Extraction’s Sam Hargrave and move from stunt coordinator to director, while Stahelski mentioned above is also one of the producers, with John Wick: Chapter 3 and Dead Man’s Army creator Shay Hatten, while John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Nobody and Bullet Train’s production company 87Eleven are also involved, which is no mean feat of action movie experience.
As you might expect, the action stands out far from the confusing mix of genres, which is too much based on superfluous plot elements and comedy, with dialogue that is largely unfunny but very forced in that direction, delivered by an otherwise quality cast. Of course, the film tries to awkwardly tick off all the elements necessary for a reasonably entertaining Friday night watch (the film was added to Netflix yesterday, Friday). Still, of course, it is highly unlikely that anyone will be talking about Day Shift in a month.
Go hunt vampires, or your wife will leave you
In the whole film (which revolves around an underground alliance of vampire hunters trying to thwart the underworld takeover by hordes of blood-sucking undead), it is perhaps the most out of touch with reality is that the aforementioned Blade-like and supercool Foxx plays a guy named Bud Jablonski, who desperately needs the cash from vampire hunting to prevent his estranged wife and daughter from running off and moving to Florida.
Bud needs $10,000 fast, so he calls in a favour from Snoop Dogg Big John Elliot to win back the favour of the vampire-hunting union, led by Mike Seeger, played by Eric Lange. Dave Franco’s Seth, however, is tasked with keeping an eye on the reckless killer of garlic-fearing creatures to ensure he’s not welcomed back into the fold.
Things inevitably get more complicated when a seemingly innocent murder finally catches the attention of Karla Souza, a real estate mogul in civilian life and an ancient, legendary vampire named Audrey. She also wants to buy up as much real estate in the San Fernando Valley as possible so that her subordinate bloodsuckers can hide in plain sight and use a widely forbidden form of sunscreen to bring Audrey’s minions out into the daylight.
Are you still here? There’s more, shall I say? Sure enough, into the already overcrowded, idiotic plot, they’ve thrown in Snoop Dogg as “Black Cowboy”, who mows down a crowd of vampires with a giant machine gun, and we haven’t even mentioned Natasha Liu Bordizzo as a mysterious neighbour: Heather, or the on-call “knight in shining armour” of horror films, Peter Stormare (he was the psycho doctor in Until Dawn on PS4), as Troy, a pawnshop owner, or Scott Adkins and Steve Howey, who play a cool and macho pair of freelance vampire-hunting brothers.
This is the biggest problem with Day Shift as a whole; in terms of the overall choreography, the funny vampire and body horror, and the action sequences, we can’t have many complaints – as we expect from such prestigious producers – but practically every really professional action sequence is followed almost immediately by a tedious, overstuffed one, with dull characters and lazy plot, and with completely uninteresting subplots that the film could have done without.
In addition, there is no shortage of cliché mountains. We’ve all seen the “loving father tries to do what’s best for his family before his enemies kidnap them because of the father’s secret profession they never knew about” set-up a thousand times. Still, the overuse of the usual vampire clichés (silver, garlic, a mirror in which the undead are not visible) doesn’t make any part of Day Shift particularly novel. There are a few good gags, but when the recurring jokes are largely limited to Franco pissing his pants and constantly reciting the basic rules of the vampire hunters’ union, it gets tiresome very quickly.
Forget Anne Rice; it’s all nonsense here
The vampires’ story has some interesting twists and turns, but none of them is developed in enough detail or excitement. The story is that there are several different species of vampire, that fangs are removed after death and sold for cash, that non-union killings are paid for on the black market, that each species has its own strengths and weaknesses, and so on, but all this is just a veneer for a new round of gun action, car chases and a binge of disfigured bodies, blood splatter and decapitations.
If the story had been significantly trimmed and many elements stripped down or removed altogether, Day Shift could have been an above-average piece of entertainment. In its current form, however, it is more than enough to keep Netflix subscribers happy for a few hours while leaving the door open for a sequel if the ratings live up to expectations.
Overall, this is just another missed opportunity to throw action, comedy, horror and vampires into the cinematic blender and come up with something completely new, exciting and fresh. Instead, it’s a slapped-together soup of flavours and ingredients you’ve tasted many times before and of which you’ve certainly had better.