Producers: Shaun Redick, Yvette Yates, Chad Stahelski and Jason Spitz Director: J.J. Perry Screenplay: Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten Cast: Jamie Foxx, Snoop Dogg, Dave Franco, Karla Souza, Meagan Good, Eric Lange, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Oliver Masucci, Steve Howey, Scott Adkins, Zion Broadnax and Peter Stormare Distributor: Netflix
In his first film, stuntman turned director J.J. Perry offers a comic action movie with entirely too much violence and too few laughs. “Day Shift” stars Jamie Foxx a Bud Jablonski, a vampire hunter in contemporary Los Angeles who’s been tossed out of the hunters’ union for failure to follow the rules (of course) who continues the trade unauthorized while working as a swimming pool cleaner. But having to sell the fangs he extracts from his victims to scummy black marketeer Troy (Peter Stormare) at reduced prices will no longer cover his bills—especially the house payments on the family home occupied by his estranged wife Jocelyn (Meagan Good) and the school tuition for his darling daughter Paige (Zion Broadnax), as well as the braces she needs—necessitates his having to get back into the union again.
He manages to do that, thanks to the intervention of his mentor Big John (Snoop Dogg) with the union’s gnarly head Seeger (Eric Lange), but there’s a catch: he’ll be on probation, working only the less lucrative day shift, and forced to partner with Seth (Dave Franco), a rule-following union clerk with no battle experience whose job will be to report his infractions to Seeger so that he can be quickly dumped from the roster again. Thus the obligatory unlikely buddy aspect of the formulaic scenario devised by Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten, the former a newbie but the latter well versed in such hyper-brawling stuff, having co-penned the script for the third installment of the “John Wick” franchise as well as Zack Snyder’s apocalyptic zombies-in-Las-Vegas bloodfest “Army of the Dead,” also a Netflix movie.
What distinction the movie has resides in its elaborate vampire mythology: there are apparently various varieties of the creatures, though the precise differences are never made very clear. But all of them move very fast, and are capable of contortionist moves that are both creepy and dangerous. That’s evident in the picture’s first big set-piece, in which Bud, then still a loner, takes on an elderly female vampire in her L.A. bungalow, along with a roommate. The fight goes on a long, long while, and sets the pattern for many that follow, all combinations of live action and abundant CGI that will satiate the lust of the adolescent-minded with crunches and gore. Many of these will of course include Franco’s Seth as a frightened comic foil who has a habit of soiling himself in fear, and some two fraternal hunters, the Nazarians (Steve Howey and Scott Adkins), whose prowess is matched only by their brawny confidence.
But that first kill will also bring the wrath of an imposing villainess on Bud. The old lady was actually the daughter of Audrey San Fernando (Karla Souza), an ambitious vamp who’s not only taking over a large swath of L.A. real estate but is distributing an innovative sun screen that allows vampires to go out in daylight without burning up in the usual fashion. She and her well-muscled aide Klaus (Oliver Masucci) target Bud for revenge, and kidnap Jocelyn and Paige to force him to attempt their rescue. That sets up the big, protracted finale in which he, Seth, Big John and Heather (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), a vampire “familiar” who’s changed sides, face off against Jocelyn and Oliver in their underground lair.
Foxx glides through all this with an air of glum determination that lifts only when he’s with Paige, one of those precocious kids who can help more than hinder, as in the predictable high-speed car chase. He’s been given lots of throwaway jibes to toss off, but few are inspired. Franco gets the most out of his role as a nervous comic foil, appearing to have fun even when he has to reattach Seth’s lopped-off head to his neck, but a little of his shtick goes a long way. The rest of the cast does what’s expected of them, with Lange being the most irritating as the hapless guy in supposed charge who rages at the reckless underlings who always disrespect his authority. He’s the screaming captain you remember from every mismatched buddy cop show that ever appeared on the big or small screen—a tiresome walking cliché.
“Day Shift” is reasonably well-made, with the effects and (understandably, given Perry’s background) stunt work overshadowing everything else, including the drab production design (Greg Berry) and cinematography (Toby Oliver). But the movie does go on too long, for which editor Paul Harb deserves some of the blame; that final battle, for instance, seems to go on forever.
In the end the movie’s surfeit of bloody action may satisfy the Netflix audience that devoured “Army of the Dead.” You know if this further helping of it will be to your taste. But even by those low standards, the familiarity and repetitiveness make it pretty thin gruel of its kind.