Day Shift

DAY SHIFT was a highly anticipated Netflix production that I watched right before leaving for my vacation-turned-sick-leave. I know plenty of other people enjoyed and discussed it upon release a couple weeks ago, now they’re mostly done with it and have moved on to other topics, but here I am to remind everyone that it still exists on a server somewhere and can be accessed at the click of a button if somebody remembers to. Which I recommend.

It’s a heartily enjoyable horror-action comedy that’s kind of like John Carpenter’s VAMPIRES but in L.A., and with more of a ZOMBIELAND sense of humor. I guess you could say it takes kind of a MEN IN BLACK approach to the profession of vampire hunting, but I can take it more seriously than that because it’s pretty raunchy and gory and especially delivers on outstanding action sequences.

And that was the main thing I was looking for, because this is the directorial debut of stunt legend J.J. Perry. I first became aware of him as the fight choreographer of UNDISPUTED II, followed by THE TOURNAMENT, WARRIOR, and HAYWIRE. But he’d been around since the ‘80s, a true blue veteran of the type of movies I love most. He played fighter J.J. Tucker in BLOODSPORT III and Cyrax, Scorpion and Noob Saibot in MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION. He did stunts in all the BEST OF THE BEST sequels, DRIVE, BLADE, and a bunch of Seagal movies (THE GLIMMER MAN, TODAY YOU DIE, BLACK DAWN, URBAN JUSTICE, PISTOL WHIPPED). He was the stunt coordinator and second unit director on productions ranging from ROAD HOUSE 2 to BLOOD AND BONE to FATE OF THE FURIOUS and F9. And there’s more justice in the world than I previously thought because now he’s directing a $100 million production starring an Academy Award winner! And Snoop Dogg.

The central joke is that vampires are real and hunting them is an unglamorous, pain-in-the-ass, working class (but secret) profession. Bud Jablonski (Jamie Foxx, STEALTH) struggles to pay the bills, exterminating bloodsucker hives and selling the fangs of his kills for less than the going market rate because he got kicked out of the union. I love that his cover is as a pool cleaner, because he seems to identify vampires by seeing that their pools are unused. His ex-wife Jocelyn (Meagan Good, HOUSE PARTY 4: DOWN TO THE LAST MINUTE) and daughter Paige (Zion Broadnax) don’t know his secret, think he’s a total fuckup, and are going to sell the house and move to Florida unless he can come up with a bunch of money for school and dental bills over the weekend. So he’s gonna have to call in some favors and then get real lucky with his hunting.

As “Big” John Elliott, Snoop provides exactly what you want from a Snoop Dogg acting performance: looking cool (in this case in a cowboy outfit), sounding cool with a few one-liners, and piercing the screen with his specific brand of charisma. As a bonus, he massacres vamps with a PREDATOR style helicopter gun. Come to think of it, Snoop is sort of the same style of movie star that Jesse “The Body” Ventura was. You don’t hire him to disappear into a role, you hire him to be what he already is, but in a movie context.

Related: the soundtrack is mostly a West Coast mix tape, including “California Love,” “Check Yo Self,” some Paris, some Nipsey Hussle, a new Snoop song somehow featuring Nate Dogg, and a very effective use of “Body Count’s in the House” (the end credits song from UNIVERSAL SOLDIER). They do violate regional purity to use “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” but I’m not gonna complain about that anthem being used as they slo-mo strut into one of the best action sequences. I loved it.

Anyway, Big John is Bud’s highly respected friend and o.g. (Snoop is actually younger than Foxx, but just go with it) who helps him get a provisional union gig during the more difficult day shift. The boss, Ralph (Eric Lange, AM1200, WIND RIVER) hates him, and assigns desk jockey Seth (Dave Franco, 6 UNDERGROUND) to shadow him. Predictable bickering, comedy and bonding ensues. This character being a scaredy cat wimp who repeatedly pees his pants is the hackiest and likely least durable aspect of the movie, but I find Franco really funny and he makes alot of it work. I mean yeah, maybe it’s obvious to make jokes about TWILIGHT in a modern vampire comedy, but “Why do you know the names to all the specific TWILIGHT films?” makes me laugh. And as much as I like VAMPIRES, I would rather hang out with the slayers who like TWILIGHT than the ones who call each other colorful homophobic slurs all day and night.

Meanwhile, VIP vampire Audrey (Karla Souza, JACOB’S LADDER remake) and her men come after Bud for slaying one of her loved ones. Like the villain of LETHAL WEAPON 3 she’s a real estate developer who punishes one of her minions by burying him in cement where a house is about to be built, but it’s way more cold-blooded here because he’s undead! She wears nice dresses and heels and has a bodyguard named Klaus (Oliver Masucci), who wears a suit and tie and has a cartoonish white streak in his hair. I like that the bad guys always look like they’re dressed up for an opera or charity auction. Audrey is an effective villain, though lightly sketched compared to, say, BLADE’s Deacon Frost.

Bud isn’t a particularly original character, but it’s a good movie star performance from Foxx, looking incredible in Hawaiian shirts and Adidas Superstars, leaning mostly into legit action star physicality, though frequently tapping into his comedy background. I can think of plenty of other A-listers who couldn’t have done it as well.

As the details of the world and characters of DAY SHIFT fade in my memory, what sticks is the cleverly constructed mayhem, combining that great 87Eleven action style (choreographer: Felix Betancourt, THE GRAY MAN) with some good gory vampire gags. I think I spotted the Texas switch that allows Franco to seemingly do a bunch of acrobatics in one shot. Vampires can fight (and be mutilated) in bizarre ways aided by makeup FX and some inspired tricks involving reverse footage of contortionists (an idea Perry says he’s been pitching to productions for years – I’m glad he got to keep it for himself!) They bend over backwards, run up walls, hold knives between their toes, projectile vomit blood as a combat technique. Makes for some interesting fights.

Perry was also wise enough to bring in his old pal Scott Adkins for a scene-stealing guest appearance. He and Steve Howey (D.O.A.: DEAD OR ALIVE) play the Nazarian Brothers, asshole Armenian vampire hunters who work out of a stereo repair van and call everybody “bro.” We get to see Adkins kick a vampire’s head off, as well as gorily impale two of them and then power kick them in the same shot.

There are tons of super-powered hits and kicks through walls, drops through ceilings, gratuitous somersaults, flying head scissors, acrobatic sword-slicing by Natasha Liu Bordizzo (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON: SWORD OF DESTINY), plus bloody decapitations, ripping off arms and using them as weapons, and an A+ vampires-don’t-have-reflections gimmick. The good shit.

Oh, and also a really well shot truck-car-motorcycles street chase with some great jumps, wheelies, crashes and an incredible (drone? crane?) shot where the camera starts out inside a car, then lifts out through the sunroof and watches the car skid out from above. Some CARTER type shit. We’re used to show-offy digital camera moves – in fact, many of those were pioneered in another vampire action classic, BLADE II – but I’m digging this new era where they figure out how to do some of that stuff for real. (Director of photography: Toby Oliver, WOLF CREEK 2, GET OUT, HAPPY DEATH DAY.)

Let me give you a very different example of the type of elbow grease involved in this one. They have a pretty funny, very catchy end credits dubstep theme song with Foxx sing/rapping, samples of Dave Franco dialogue, the works. The movie was made specifically for a streaming service that tries to bump you out of the credits to watch something else, but they still went through the trouble to make that song, because they knew it would be funny. And because they care. Not everybody bothers. Life is hard. People are busy.

The script is credited to first timer Tyler Tice (I think he wrote it as a spec script) and up-and-comer Shay Hatten (JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3: PARABELLUM, ARMY OF THE DEAD). I enjoy their take on the vampire world (lots of little details about different vampire types and stuff), and references to an unseen higher-up villain suggest the possibility of further world building in sequels or, as many have already demanded, a Nazarian Brothers spin-off. I’d be excited for either of those things but mostly I just want to see Perry direct whatever he wants to, hopefully with as many flying kicks and motorcycle flips as humanly possible.

p.s. There’s a part where Seth refers to himself and Bud as “Crockett and Tubbs.” I didn’t even clock that it was a corny in-joke the first time because my mind went right to the original Philip Michael Thomas Tubbs and not the cinematic version played by Foxx. So it works!

This entry was posted on Friday, September 2nd, 2022 at 1:26 pm and is filed under Action, Comedy/Laffs, Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

14 Responses to “Day Shift”

  1. I’ve commented on this movie under several other reviews already, so this is probably my third or even fourth time posting this, but I guess just for the sake of posterity, my opinion of this one was that the action, stunts and effects were A+ and basically everything else was D-. I think it would have been a classic if the really bad and unfunny script was one quarter as good as the action.

  2. The movie has many issues that at the end of the day hinder it from being more than mediocre. For one, the pacing is all over the place. The plot is very basic, pedestrian even, and feels like a slog at times. The lore is inconsistent, much of it leads nowhere, even more of it is incoherent. The comedy is far more miss than hit. Effective is the opposite of what I’d describe main villainess Audrey as, I felt nothing really worked there. Also thought the movie had more characters than it could manage properly, so most of them end up being very perfunctory. Even the action is a bit inconsistent, with only the opening sequence and the hive one with the Nazarian Brothers truly being highlights; the final battle is actually pretty underwhelming, tedious even.

    (Btw, I can’t help feeling Netflix is being ripped off when I read this cost US$ 100M and the Grey Man US$ 200M. They ought to look into that, because those humungous budgets certainly don’t show on the final products.)

    The above notwithstanding, I reckon Day Shift was able to establish a universe of sorts, setting the potential for more in the future.

    Speaking of the future, between a sequel and a Nazarian Bros spin-off for me it’s a no-brainer.

    Especially with the movie pushing a Bud-Seth-Heather trio at the end, which doesn’t even add up in itself when more than half of the movie establishes this humans vs vampires and how all vampires are intrinsically evil. I’d be personally happy not to see more of them. I mean, I like Jamie Foxx and his Bud was alright, but I can’t say I’d care much to see more of his adventures, especially with his whiny family involved. Seth is annoying, both versions really. Natascha Liu Bordizzo was good and I’d definitely like to see more of her, just not here because her character made absolutely zero sense. I feel perhaps there was an alternate cut where her role was more substantial and some of her scenes ended up deleted, but the fact remains that in the final cut we got her ‘character’ is a non-entity. Heather should have been removed entirely and the movie would have been stronger as a result, especially if the Nazarians joined the final fight in her stead.

    So, yeah, bring on the Nazarian Bros spin-off. They were easily the best part of the movie and fan demand for their own movie or series has been more than loud and clear.

  3. I did enjoy this film but sadly I thought Jamie Foxx was easily the weakest aspect of this film. He was fine but everyone else out shone him and I lost all interest in him after watching the Nazarian Bros. Having those two drag Franco around would have been a much more entertaining film.

  4. I had a ball with this one. I’ll admit the script was sloppy and the comic relief highly questionable, but the action and the overall breezy tone pulled me through. Loved the soundtrack and its reverence for the hip-hop of my youth. LOVED Snoop being treated like the motherfucking legend he is (and grateful that he SPOILER wasn’t a turncoat, as I assumed he would be). Thank God for stuntmen-turned-directors or there’d be nobody left on earth who remembers that action is supposed to be fun.

  5. I liked this, but only by taking the ridiculously good action out of context of the terrible, horrible, hacky, no-good script. Just wall to wall mess of shit jokes, non-sensical behavior, plot holes, and botched plot threads that fizzle into nothing. Overstuffed and one-quarter baked at the same time. Pure trash, and not good trash.
    Even the jokes I kind of like on paper turned out cringeworthy (the girl playing her ipad during the chase, which is cute in concept but so much bullshit, or the last part of the twilight bit where Franco groks that Foxx hasn’t seen the last one; so forced, and so far away from the way people communicate that it’s painful. Credit the actors for almost selling it, though.)
    I liked the Nazarian Bros, though. Kinda stole the movie from everything else.

    Still, overall the action trumps all the other shit, which is a testament to how good, varied and fun the action scenes are; absolutely worth being celebrated. Can’t wait to see what JJ Perry and co. do next, I’m just hoping said co. doesn’t include these scriptwriters.

    Bullet Train made Thor 4 look pretty funny in comparison, and now Day Shift’s here to make me re-evaluate Bullet Train. I don’t want to know what the last quarter of the year has in store for us to redeem this…

  6. Umen – As I said in the GRAY MAN review, budgets mean something different for streaming because it’s a different business model (that doesn’t make sense and I’m pretty sure is a scam). Most movies starring Jamie Foxx or Ryan Gosling sell tickets, blu rays, VOD, are sold to cable and airplanes, etc., and they get residuals from that stuff. If Netflix wants them to star in a movie that’s just gonna be shat out onto a streaming service without a single person ever being asked to pay a dime for it they have to pay them way more up front or why the fuck would they do it? (This is why Scarlett Johansson sued Disney when they put BLACK WIDOW on streaming.)

    So forget the number, just look at the production value. My point in bringing up the budget is that whatever $100 million Netflix translates to in regular movie money, it looks like ten or twenty times the budget I would expect a DTV legend like J.J. Perry would have to settle for for his directorial debut. So good for him and 87Eleven.

  7. Hello Vern.

    My mention of the budgets was actually an aside and the very last thing I wrote in my comment. It didn’t at all to refer to your point, which is perfectly valid.

    My own point is how Netflix keeps putting these budget figures out there as if they mean anything, when looking at what we get on our screens it simply feels like Netflix just has way too much money to burn and doesn’t even care where it goes.

    I understand what you’re saying and it makes sense. I don’t doubt a significant part of the budget for something like The Grey Man, with its star-studded cast, goes to pay the stars. However, when you see those Netflix rom-coms that look like something one could watch on the Hallmark Channel pull nearly the same viewership as those movies while being made on (I’m guessing) a tiny fraction of the budget, one has to wonder whether it even makes business sense to bank the Goslings and Evans.

  8. There are a lot of loose ends and diversions and weird extraneous details in this. That might annoy me in another movie, but somehow it works for this. The shagginess is part of the charm. I would be up for a sequel or spin-off or TV show or Super Nintendo game.

    The opening action scene is probably my favorite, though the chaotic fight with the Nazarian Brothers comes in a close second.

  9. Mother of God, it has an end credits theme song. With sampled dialogue and everything. I thought that practice was long, long, dead.

    It’s a shame I’ll almost certainly never see the movie.

  10. That film was a lot of fun. Sure it has some weird script issues but it still made enough sense to make it enjoyable. The action was 10/10. Jamie Foxx was basically playing a Michael Jai White role and killing it. The Dave Franco character wasn’t all good but whatever. Still a fun flick. I’d take a Michael Jai White sequel anyway!

  11. There are some issues with the script but the movie over all was good. I see some ways they can improve on the writting side though. Funny thing is the writter made the little girl not afraid of anything but at the end they just had her stand there seems like she would have been the type to try to help her parents in a fight. She told the lady vampire she was not afraid of her, it would have been dope to see her throw a kick here and there. Also, they could have been more suspense at the end when he went to save his wife and daughter something happening in that moment that was urgent and more time sensative. They had all the other characters on the art work and acted like the little girl was not in the film, but she was the center of why he was doing all of this in the first place. Meagan Good could have had more meat too. I see where they were going but a part 2 would be good to see if they will actually take it all the way.

  12. The main issue for me is how the movie doesn’t even manage to keep a consistent premise.

    For the first 2/3 of the movie every vampire is killed no questions asked because they’re all evil beasts. But then all of a sudden vampires can choose to be “good” (or side with Bud, at least), which puts all of that in question.

    On that note, Heather has to be one of the worst written characters ever on film.

  13. To me–how do I put this?–I was interested in the ‘Vampires$’ side of this where it’s just vampire hunters doing what they do for money, trying to rack up a lot of cash in very little time, sort of like The Debt Collector or Ghostbusters. I mean, it’s clearly doing a bit of a Ghostbusters thing. And I know that movie did a “but they end up saving the world!” third act and I can’t blame this one for taking that tack, but it feels like we get barely any of the “hustling for cash!” stuff and a LOT of the “but they end up saving the world!” stuff.

    Which makes me wonder what’s the point of all the blue-collar union stuff, which is the thing that sets this movie apart from most other vampire movies–it seems like it wouldn’t have made much of a difference if everyone were secret agents working for the government or the Catholic Church or whatever.

    I’m rambling, but basically, I want the Elmore Leonard or Donald Westlake version of this where the focus is on all the tricks Jamie Foxx pulls to kill all the vampires he can before the deadline. Like, the whole plot of the queen vampire going after him because he killed her daughter is pretty much on accident–what if he was DELIBERATELY setting out after this huge army of vampires because it’s a big fat payday? Wouldn’t that be a better movie?

  14. …It’s a terrible, terrible script. People rarely act like human beings (or even like movie human beings), the plot flips on what it’s established at the drop of a hat, the humor fails nine jokes out of ten, and the villain’s plan is laughable (so… she’s importing vampires and buckets of sunscreen?
    Claude above hit on two of my biggest complaints, which alone would be enough to sink any movie.
    Even in the bits where it shows some effort it’s misguided. There’s some thought put into the vampires, for example, but it completely fails to make them distinct (I couldn’t tell you what any of the vampires’ bloodlines was.)

    I get that it’s hard – you need to do justice to both the action and the comedy, and in both genres it’s acceptable for scripts to work more like coat racks where you hang action scenes/jokes from. There’s probably were off-screen shenanigans as well (the Heather character is obviously the victim of bad rewrites/cuts.) But… ooof.

    The eye-rolling muscles I’ve developed watching Asian movies came in really handy to ignore the “comedy” and rough patches in this one. I mean, it’s got less wit than your average Chinese movie, but once you get to the action it’s all good, and I enjoyed it overall. Still, its finished script is distractingly bad… TheAsylum-level dreck.

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