Sunday, August 14, 2022

Day Shift – review

Director: J.J. Perry

Release date: 2022

Contains spoilers

Made for Netflix, this feature was directed by J.J. Perry, a stunt coordinator who worked on John Wick: Chapter 2 and so the action sequences (especially the fights) are really nicely put together, as one would expect. However, this is not just an action flick and is listed as an action comedy and it perhaps falls a little flat in that ambition. It introduces some unusual lore but doesn’t explore that in the depth that might have pushed the film that little further.

break in

Staring in the San Fernando Valley, the camera takes in LA sights before following a pool cleaner’s truck. The truck is driven by Bud Jablonski (Jamie Foxx) and we see him cleaning a pool until he spots a car leave a nearby house and takes a box of cleaning products across to the other house. The crate has a false bottom and he retrieves weapons and house-breaking equipment.

revealed as a vampire

Inside the house he starts to look around, setting a wire across a doorway and is in a bedroom when an old lady (Danielle Kennedy) walks in from the bathroom area and asks what he is doing in her house. He shoots her, through a pillow, with his shotgun. She starts twitching and twisting, standing, her wound healing and her fangs on show. There follows a long fight sequence, during which Bud is pierced with a rogue piece of glass that he pulls from his shoulder but, eventually, he stakes and beheads her. A male vampire runs in towards him but the earlier set wire decapitates him. Bud retrieves their fangs.

Karla Souza as Audrey

At a building site a vampire is chained down in the foundations, burning and regenerating in the sun. He is watched by Audrey (Karla Souza) who says he is of the old ways and she represents the new ways. She holds her arm out of the shade of her umbrella and the flesh burns slightly. She allows the vampire to be encased in concreate. We see a sign that suggests she is a realtor and we later hear about her product, which is a suncream that allows daylight exposure, along with her plan to buy up properties around the city and embed vampires everywhere as a prelude to taking the city.

Jamie Foxx as Bud

Bud goes home and showers, supergluing the wound from the glass and rubbing an orange powder into his skin. This is later explained as a home-made concoction, necessary as vampires release a gas on expiration that attracts other vampires. There is virtually nothing done with this as a piece of lore, bar a weakly delivered gag about not getting it in an intimate place. Bud then picks his daughter, Paige (Zion Broadnax), up from school, takes her for frozen yoghurt and then takes her to his estranged wife’s house. There he discovers that Jocelyn (Meagan Good) intends to sell the family home and move her and Paige to Florida – Bud tries to convince her otherwise but unless he comes up with $10k for school tuition and braces in a week she’s going.

Snoop Dogg as Big John

This, then, is the story. Bud needs to make money. The money in vampire hunting is in the fangs (later we hear that removal of fangs condemns a vampire as it is the one part of their body they can’t regenerate. It doesn’t explain why as they might be convenient for feeding but there are other ways to open a vein) and the older the vampire, the more valuable the fangs. He goes to a trader, Troy (Peter Stormare), but the money he offers is too low. Bud has to look to re-join the Union (of vampire hunters) – an organisation he was removed from due to code violations. Top hunter Big John (Snoop Dogg) vouches for him but he is told to take bureaucrat Seth (Dave Franco) with him (who is there to catch him out). It also turns out that the old lady was Audrey’s natural daughter and she has Bud’s scent from the glass with his blood on it.

odd couple

So, whilst neither this, nor the film I will subsequently mention, are cop movies, this is essentially a buddy cop film in format. Unfortunately, the scriptwriters could have well done to watch Midnight Run (1988) prior to writing this because, for me, that sets the benchmark for an odd couple comedy in that genre and this falls very short of that benchmark. Neither Foxx nor Franco have a huge amount to work with and they never get the chemistry running that the older film had in spades. Foxx does what he can but his character often just comes across as overly gobby and a tad obnoxious, despite his best efforts, and that lets the film down. That said, Foxx works the action well and it isn’t that his performance is bad, but the character is written, if not weakly, then without much depth.

plenty of action

The other thing that lets it down is superficial lore. So, we get the “death gas” but no real use of it, the film deliberately shows us some grenades and then makes Bud explicitly describe them as garlic grenades (and he doesn’t know if they’ll work) but then doesn’t use them. A vampire, Heather (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), turned by Audrey is sent as a honey trap to discover Bud’s weaknesses, but they have a conversation that reveals nothing of use and makes the ploy dramatically pointless. When Bud confronts Heather later, she says she had no choice as Audrey made her (touching the megatext idea that a vampire controls those they turn) but she then immediately turns good and Bud accepts her (and another vampire) as they go against Audrey. There are five types of vampires but nothing of meaning is done with that except to suggest that an uber-vampire (type not age) can survive beheading. The five types should not coexist and are found in a nest together but that does not lead to any detective work.

Big John has big guns

There are references to vampire films with a mention of the Twilight franchise that actually didn’t attack the series, which is a refreshing change, and a nice the Lost Boys reference at the end of the film. In a world-building sense, one feels the writers had an idea of what they wanted to do but perhaps that world isn’t as well communicated as it should have been. However, whilst I may have pointed out failings, one can say that the film was fun in an action sense – especially around the fight sequences. It is close to two hours (notwithstanding almost nine minutes of credits) and it didn’t drag because of those sequences. 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Fangfan408592 said...

I got the sense watching the film that the producers want to do more with this franchise. The characters refer to another vampire, "El Jefe," who is more powerful than Audrey but has never seen. Possible sequel or series? Bud and Seth had good chemistry, which might be explored at greater length. The other vampire bloodlines mentioned (Southern, Eastern, Spider) didn't receive much exposure in the film, so I'd be interested to see them fleshed out further. This movie wasn't great, but it did do some things well, and I liked the Jamie Foxx character. I would be interested in a sequel or series.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Fangfan - many thanks for the response and they are fair points, and I certainly wouldn't be opposed to seeing the world fleshed out more in other films (or a series)