Netflix truly has been delivering a lot of vampire content over the past couple of years. “Vampires vs. the Bronx” followed a group of teenagers who decided to save the Bronx neighborhood which was about to be attacked by a horde of vampires. “Night Teeth” saw Benny (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), a freelance chauffeur in Los Angeles, finding himself in the middle of a vampire uprising after one of them broke the treaty between humans and vampires and initiated his plan to take over the city. “First Kill” (which is a show, not a movie) was set around Juliette’s (Sarah Catherine Hook) coming-of-vampire story, which led to her falling in love with Calliope (Imani Lewis), someone who comes from a family of monster hunters. And now we have an action-heavy, vampire hunting flick in the form of “Day Shift.”
Directed by J. J. Perry and written by Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten, “Day Shift” follows pool cleaner Bud Jablonski (Jamie Foxx). But we soon realize that he’s no pool cleaner as he breaks into a house. When he walks into an elderly lady residing there, he shoots her with his shotgun, sending her hurtling into the bathroom wall. It’s when the woman gets back up—fangs sticking out of her mouth—that it becomes clear that Bud here is a vampire hunter. And he earns money by delivering vampire fangs to a pawn shop owner, Troy (Peter Stormare). Since he doesn’t make a lot from him, he wants to re-enter the union (of vampire hunters), get the big bucks, and prevent his daughter and ex-wife from moving out. Based on Big John’s (Snoop Dogg) recommendation, his application is accepted. On one condition, though: he has to take union rep—Seth (Dave Franco) on his missions.
If you are wondering what the main conflict between humans and vampires is this time, other than the fact that they’re enemies because one is the prey and the other is the predator. Well, it’s vampire gentrification. Audrey San Fernando (Karla Souza), with Klaus (Oliver Masucci) by her side, is not only converting ordinary people into vampires, but she’s also into real estate. She’s buying large areas of habitable land and pushing humans out of them, thereby turning a bunch of small nests into one big nest. That’s essentially the reason why Bud’s wife, Jocelyn (Meagan Good), is moving out: she simply can’t afford to live there. So, that’s an additional bit of stake (pun totally intended) to Bud’s mission, which makes his enmity with the vampires personal. But, in terms of depth, that’s how far the subtext and the villain go. That’s the one and the only area that needed some more work.
The reason why I say that is because the action and comedy aspects of “Day Shift” are so impeccable that a meaty story would’ve made things tastier. There are a total of five action sequences. The first one pretty much sets the stage for what to expect from the other four. Plenty of actual body contortions, bucket loads of practical and CGI blood, really detailed and gory moments of bodies blowing up, exciting gunplay, swift hand-to-hand combat, crisp editing, and some of the best wire pulls these eyes have recently seen. Perry (who is a legend in the world of action in movies and shows) and his team do away with realism because it’s a movie with vampires in it, and they focus on style and practicality. So, every bullet shot, every kick, every punch, every sword swing, every bodily dismemberment has so much weight and texture to it. The nest invasion with Mike (Steve Howey) and Diran (Scott Adkins) is my favorite out of the lot.
Coming to the comedy, “Day Shift” is a classic buddy-cop (or buddy-vampire-hunter) situation. It’s “Training Day” meets “Blade.” You have your weathered, no-nonsense veteran who has been killing vampires all his life. You have your amateur, bumbling rookie who theoretically knows everything about vampires and vampire hunters but has never stepped out into the field. And it’s through this class divide, experiential divide, and age gap that Bud and Seth are going to become BFFs. That’s where most of the movie’s laughs come from, and Dave Franco does a really good job of selling Seth’s lack of confidence and immaturity. We all like to laugh at poop jokes. But there is a really well-done, three-step, poop joke centered around Seth that had me laughing. On top of that, the action sequences are stuffed with comedic bits that had me cackling and hollering. Without spoiling too much, my favorite moment is when Bud spins his big knife around a vampire’s spinal cord before killing it.
“Day Shift” looks like a million bucks! Cinematographer Toby Oliver, along with production designer Greg Berry, art director Andy Broomell and costume designer Kelli Jones, has done a fantastic job of giving the movie a very summer-y feeling. You really feel the heat of the sun beating down on the characters, especially in a bonkers-as-hell car chase sequence. I am well aware that drones are gaining a little too much popularity in action movies. You’ve seen it in “Ambulance,” “The Gray Man,” and “Carter.” Compared to them, the use of drones in the car chase scene here is masterful. It’s only used to establish the geography of the place through which Bud and the vampires are driving. Occasionally, it’s used to show where Bud and the vampires are with respect to each other, so that we know who is closing in on whom. But that’s it. The movie could’ve been paced better, and the score could’ve had more character. The soundtrack is a bop, though.
Performance-wise, everyone on “Day Shift” is having a ball. Jamie Foxx is so charming that it’s hard not to fall in love with whatever character he’s playing. He’s the epitome of cool in the film and is only eclipsed occasionally by Snoop Dogg. Foxx is very present in the action sequences. Gee Alexander (Foxx’s stunt double) is excellent, and it’s hard to notice when the two swap places. As mentioned earlier, Franco is fantastic. He walks this line where you feel sorry for him, but, since he’s so pathetic, you want him to get into horrible situations just to see how miserably he reacts to them. Scott Adkins and Steve Howey are like a one-two punch of energy and oomph. Natasha Liu Bordizzo is brilliant. And so are Meagan Good, Karla Souza, Oliver Masucci, Eric Lange, Peter Stormare, and Zion Broadnax. To be honest, everyone is so amazing in this film that I wanted them to have more screen time.
In conclusion, and as if it’s not evident already, “Day Shift” is an action-packed, fun time. It has all the makings of a breezy but gory summer blockbuster. Hence, it’s one that I would’ve loved to see on the big screen. I would’ve gone to the theater to see Jamie Foxx rock those Hawaiian shirts. The action and comedy would’ve been icing on the proverbial cake. All jokes aside, the movie has some of the best action sequences I’ve seen this year. You can clearly see how much preparation and thought has been put into the cinematography, the set design, the physicality of each of the vampires, the wire pulls, and then the editing. And all of them come together so seamlessly that you can’t help but shower Perry and his team with applause. Of course, it’s entirely up to Netflix to greenlight sequels. But I would really like to see Bud, Seth, and Heather go on more adventures.