Day Shift Review: Jamie Foxx’s Vampire Hunter Film Features Excellent Fight Scenes and Standard Comedic Beats!
Bud Jablonski (Jamie Foxx) is a pool cleaner in the San Fernando Valley, but this is a cover for his more interesting work.
Inspecting the house next door while swimming in a pool, he dons a ski mask, arms himself, and then charges inside. The resident, a terrified elderly lady, says, “Who are you? Why are you in my room?
Without a response, Bud opens fire on her with a shotgun. The woman, after revealing herself to be a vampire and exposing her fangs, stands up with a huge hole in her chest and begins to fight back.
J.J. Perry, a professional stuntman who played Scorpion and other masked fighters in 1997’s Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and choreographed the dramatic combat scenes in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, makes his directorial debut with Day Shift.
And the opening scene of the vampire hunter thriller Day Shift plays up to Perry’s heritage with fast action and cartoonish gore that, at times, is more reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films than a modern shoot-’em-up.
The fact that the vampires in Day Shift bend their limbs in weird ways reminiscent of The Exorcist adds a touch of unsettling originality to the otherwise pretty standard creature feature aesthetics.
High Stakes: In recent years, Netflix has devoted a great deal of effort to producing action films with nine-figure budgets in search of something that feels like an old-fashioned summer blockbuster, but without a large theatrical release: Bright, Extraction, The Gray Man, and the list continues.
Netflix boasts large audience numbers for these films, but they never manage to create a cultural footprint comparable to Independence Day. Without a lobby where you can purchase an actual bucket of popcorn, these popcorn films are not nearly as enjoyable.
Day Shift’s screenplay was co-written by Shay Hatten, who co-wrote Zack Snyder’s zombie heist film Army of the Dead, one of Netflix’s few truly exciting action blockbusters. And Jamie Foxx is one of Hollywood’s most varied talents: an Oscar-winning actor, a chart-topping singer, and a brilliant stand-up comedian.
Foxx has previously failed to save a Netflix action film, 2020’s mediocre science fiction drama Project Power, on his own.
Fortunately, Jamie Foxx is not solely responsible for Day Shift. As Audrey, a successful Los Angeles real estate agent whose predilection for vividly colored pantsuits conceals her secret identity as a powerful elderly vampire, Karla Souza is a fascinating antagonist.
Bud has an endearing encounter with his nurse neighbor Heather (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), who ultimately gets to kick a** in the climax action.
And veteran scene-stealer Peter Stormare makes brief, hilarious appearances as Troy, a sleazy pawn shop worker in a tracksuit who rewards Bud for his murders.
Bite Marks: The vampire theme, as well as the vampire hunter subgenre, is so saturated that it is difficult for Day Shift to bring anything new to the table.
Bud is not as infamously badass as Blade, the Black vampire hunter from Marvel Comics who was portrayed by Wesley Snipes in the successful film trilogy and will be portrayed by Mahershala Ali in an upcoming reboot.
However, Foxx’s persona is not as humorous as Jefferson Twilight, the “Blacula hunter” parody from The Venture Bros. on Adult Swim.
He’s basically a stoic everyman, struggling to provide for his young daughter Paige (Zion Broadnax), which feels like a bit of a waste of Foxx’s immense talent and personality.
Bud must rejoin the vampire hunting association, from which he was previously expelled for violating its severe regulations, in order to pay for some pressing family expenses.
But they require Bud to follow the rules, escorted by union representative Seth (Dave Franco), an apprehensive, glasses-wearing office worker.
And from the minute Franco appears as a nerdy counterpoint to the stylish, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing Bud, the film follows a conventional, gratingly self-aware buddy police film format. At one point, Franco states, “We’re like Crockett and Tubbs, partners” (Foxx, of course, played Tubbs in the 2006 Miami Vice feature).
In the world of Day Shift, the existence of vampires is a well-guarded secret known only to a select few.
As one of the funnier scenes reveals, it’s also a world where Twilight and Interview with the Vampire remain popular entertainment, loved by individuals like Bud and Seth who have to cope with real vampires.
It can be difficult to determine whether Day Shift is intentionally playing on common pop culture tropes or is unaware of how derivative it is.
A pursuit sequence with motorbikes and trucks in a ravine cannot help but recall a similar scene from Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Snoop Dogg has a small but hilarious part as the cowboy-hat-wearing vampire hunter Big John.
Day Shift is one of Netflix’s better action films, which is meager praise given the streaming service’s poor track record.
Perry’s action sequences are filled with innovative touches, such as when combatants pass a mirror and the vampires’ reflections are obscured.
However, the comedic relief is inconsistent. Dave Franco, James’s younger brother, has built himself a successful career as the sibling of a huge celebrity who has discovered his own humorous niche.
When Seth wets his pants for the second time, it becomes apparent that the film would have been better off without his stock sidekick.
In less capable hands, Day Shift might have been a dud. But Jamie Foxx is having so much fun as the “pool boy” vampire hunter, one of his first heroic leading man roles since Django Unchained in 2012, that it’s easy to become engrossed in the story’s predictability.
And Perry’s directing approach is refreshingly less dependent on unnecessary CGI than on expertly staged combat, featuring an enormous bowling alley clash.
At a time when fight choreography is the weakest link in many of the biggest action films, Perry arguably deserves the opportunity to direct a large franchise.
Where to Watch?
Day Shift will be available on Netflix beginning August 12th.