The directorial debut from stunt coordinator J.J. Perry, Day Shift follows Foxx as Bud Jablonski, a man whose pool cleaning service is a front for his real work as a freelance killer of the undead. Rather than some tortured blood oath sworn in service to an arcane order of hunters, however, Jablonski is pretty blue collar. He’s just a guy who kills vamps and steals their fangs that he can then turn into money. Jablonski needs that money to pay for his daughter’s private school tuition and braces so his ex-wife (Megan Good) doesn’t move them both away to Florida. But because it’s hard out here for an independent contractor, he has to get back into the good graces of “the union,” an underground network of vampire hunters acting in concert with law enforcement, where the fangs he collects can yield him a higher rate of return.
With only one week to get the braces and school money together, Jablonski winds up tethered to new union rep Seth (Dave Franco), assigned to catch our man breaking enough protocol to be expelled from the union forever, while being hunted himself by Audrey (Karla Souza), an elder vampire with a bone to pick over one of his other kills.
Day Shift has everything: Snoop Dogg in a cowboy hat firing a Gatling gun; Peter Stormare watching K-Pop music videos; Dave Franco being on the receiving end of a sunset flip powerbomb through a table by a vampire, and more G-Funk needle drops than Grand Theft Auto.
In a world where people constantly opine about the dearth of well made genre film predominantly starring Black talent that transcend the usual paradigm of torture porn, Day Shift feels like it was manifested directly from one of those hopeful Twitter threads Matthew Cherry is always RT-ing.
So why aren’t more people talking about it? For the last eight years, the majority of meat-and-potatoes action flicks have been some variation of John Wick. While we’ve had Femme Fatale John Wick (Atomic Blonde) and “Saul Goodman” John Wick (Nobody), the fine folks at Marvel are going to be pretty pissed Jamie Foxx’s new Netflix original outing Day Shift beat their Blade reboot to “Vampire Hunter” John Wick.
The film shares a screenwriter with the third and fourth chapters of the “John Wick” franchise. But with its divorced protagonist, sardonic attitude and buddy movie aura, Day Shift feels like something Shane Black may have penned in the early ‘90s in between the first and second “Lethal Weapon” films.
In a world where a genre picture that isn’t based on a comic book, a video game, or a pre-existing franchise from the ‘80s, “Jamie Foxx hunting vampires” is not a particularly viable theatrical proposition, so it can only exist on Netflix, or a similar digital platform and content farm subsidized by grifted venture capital and the misguided notion that nebulously defined algorithms are indistinguishable from magic.
Day Shift shares many a foible with its straight-to-streaming brethren. It’s plagued by inconsistent screenwriting and the sinking suspicion much of the budget went to some kind of money laundering scheme. But it sets itself apart too. The film employs a garish, off-putting color grade that makes daylight as unnatural as the immortal creatures who hide from it. It’s a neat stylistic tic that at once hides the digital muddiness inherent to every other Netflix original, while also implying a unique vibe—something exploitative and charming we all would have watched on Cinemax as bored teenagers.
Perry’s staging of the film’s many exhilarating set pieces and fight scenes are show stopping enough to mask a lot of the holes in its inconsistent attempts at comedy. Foxx does reliable work employing just enough movie star aura to elevate the picture above some of its schlocky ilk. It’s exactly the kind of disposable, empty calories snack of a viewing experience you want from a vampire movie whose logo sharpens letters of its title into foreboding fangs.
Day Shift can’t outrun a simple truth. Streaming movies aren’t real. Unless it’s the occasional artsy outlier designed to catch critical praise and gravitas like flies or something random, messy and lucky enough to drop on a weekend when we’re all at home with nothing to do, these movies don’t feel like movies. They’re just interchangeable pieces of content designed solely to result in a thumbnail clickable enough to steal a sufficient sliver of your ever roaming attention.
There was a time however, when even the bad movies were pretty fun. Day Shift suggests maybe we can go back there. Anything would be better than most of the vaporware we’re subjected to these days—movies so forgettable one must wonder if they really watched them or if The Mandela Effect has struck again.