Wow! What a great week it has been for action movies. After losing my faith after watching the disappointing The Gray Man, my feelings have done a complete 180 after watching both Bullet train and the Predator franchise flick Prey. Both films were hits in my book for different reasons but I’m not here to talk about either of them. My full reviews are out now on the site. No Sir. Today, I’m here to talk about the greatness that is Day Shift. Funny thing is that this movie which stars Jamie Foxx as a vampire hunter is also a Netflix original film like the aforementioned The Gray Man. Another funny thing to point out is that Day Shift probably had a third of the budget as that clunker and it kicked it squarely in the ass and comes back for more.
Before I go any further, it’s important to mention that Day Shift comes to us from 87Eleven North which is the production banner for 87Eleven action design and the people behind the John Wick movies. Chad Stahelski served as a producer on the movie and veteran martial arts expert and stunt/fight coordinator J.J. “Loco” Perry was the man in the director’s chair for this one. Oh yeah, just one more thing, this was his directorial debut to boot. How did Mr. Perry do with his first time directing? Well, I’m glad you asked because just like Sam Hargrave crushed his directorial debut with Extraction, J.J. “Loco” Perry has given us our third kick ass action flick of the summer (the other two being Bullet Train and Prey) with his first effort. A true action-horror-comedy spectacle that bleeds an 80’s vampire flick vibe with action set pieces that take a bite out of the competition and defy logic and gravity.
Let’s talk about story. There really isn’t anything new here although Perry and company have some fun with the movie blending such great 80’s vampire flicks like Fright Night and The Lost Boys. Just like those films, Day Shift really boasts some great dark humor and it’s mostly due to the fact that Jamie Foxx and co-star Dave Franco really nail the buddy cop feel with it.
Foxx stars as Bud Jablonski, who works as a pool cleaner in southern L.A. Or does he? You see, pool cleaning is only a cover as Jablonski is really a vampire hunter in disguise who goes after the deadliest of undead and collecting their fangs because they’re worth a lot of money. Bud does this undercover and not even his wife Jocelyn (Meagan Good), whom he’s separated with, and his little girl Paige (Zion Broadnax) know anything about it. Bud’s wife is done with the lying as she knows something is up and she gives him an ultimatum. Either come up with some serious cash to pay for Paige’s school tuition and braces or she’s taking her to Florida.
Bud isn’t having it and he asks Jocelyn to give him a week to get the cash and make everything right. The only problem is, Bud has been kicked out of the vampire union (yes there really is one) for violating rules and they are the only ones that pay top dollar for fangs. Instead, Jablonski does business with two timing pawn dealer Troy, played by the always game Peter Stormare and he continues to rip him off.
Bud is fed up so he calls on his buddy and fellow vampire ass kicker Big John (Snoop Dogg in the flesh) to get him back in the union so he can make some real money and save the day for his family. Again, there’s a problem as the union leader Ralph (Eric Lange) hates Bud and only lets him back in at the request of Big John. There’s a hitch though as Ralph pairs the seasoned Bud up with the unseasoned Seth (Dave Franco) who is to report in on every infraction that Bud commits.
Now the stage is set as Bud and Seth go into battle as there is a real evil lurking in the form of Uber Vampire Audrey San Fernando (Karla Souza) who is looking to bring all vampires into the light with a special sun block (yes, you heard that right) and take over the valley with a reality scam that will house the undead for life and blood suckers will essentially control the entire area. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Bud is responsible for killing Audrey’s daughter so there’s that as well. One thing’s for sure is that blood will flow, body parts will fly, and Bud just might kill Seth himself before the night is over.
Make no mistake, Day Shift isn’t perfect, and it does fall into a cliche landmine but that’s OK because the cast is stellar, the action set pieces, courtesy of the 87Eleven action team, is hot and Foxx is on his A game here with spectacular stunts and enough dark humor to make you feel guilty that you’re laughing. The biggest issue I had with the movie, and this is probably just a small gripe, is that the film could have shaved around 15 minutes to tighten it up. It runs at an unusually long 113 minutes and I felt some pacing lags in the first 45 minutes. I still enjoyed the humor and quips that were supplied by the sharp cast, but it seemed to lose itself at the beginning. Like I said, this was the most minor of gripes so don’t come at me for it.
Like I said, Foxx is on his A game as is Snoop Dog, who unfortunately is only an extended cameo but it’s the chemistry between Foxx and Franco that really makes the slower moments hit on all cylinders. Foxx’s charisma and machismo bounces off franco’s nerdy and useless mojo to near perfection and I for one would love to see these two strike it up in another movie for sure. Snoop Dogg is, well Snoop Dogg as he oozes charisma as well like he always does and serves up his usual low-key demeanor that he’s known for. Plus, it’s always a win when you can see the certified rapper star mow down hordes of vampires with a mini gun that says Big Bertha on it while chomping on a cigar. Yes, that’s worth the price of admission alone.
Now let’s talk about the best part of the movie. I know what you’re saying. “Hey, John that wasn’t the best part?” Oh no my Padawan. The best part comes in the form of The Nazarian Brothers played by action superstar Scott Adkins and Steve Howey of the sitcom Reba fame. Yes, that Steve Howey, who is now vying to be one insane action star. Unfortunately, these two are only in one scene of the movie but it’s the standout action sequence and quite possibly one of the best set pieces this year.
The brothers join Jablonski and Seth as they take down a vampire lair and with it, fans are treated to some of the best action choreography that the 87Eleven action team has to offer. Adkins is just let loose to do what Adkins does and Howey gets insane with it as well. There are bullets, extreme kicks, even more extreme stunts and it’s all shot to perfection by people who know what they’re doing. I hope The Gray Man filmmakers take notes by this so they can improve with future installments. Adkins also gets to do an impersonation of his most famous character Boyka, and Howey has one of the best comedic lines in the movie. If you saw it, you know what I mean. It’s just a five-minute helping of whoop ass and I was missing the brothers for the rest of the movie. Someone better give Adkins and Howey their own movie STAT because that just says golden opportunity. Make it happen Netflix!
The finale is as ordered too as Jablonski and crew make their final assault on Audrey’s lair and the action personifies even more with blood, gore, dismemberment, jokes and sensational stunt work. I think Hollywood should just use 87Eleven for everything because these guys always step up in the high-octane department and ever since John Wick rejuvenated the genre, 87Eleven has been tops in the game. Hell, even before John Wick was around, this company kicked ass. They just weren’t as well-known which was a crying shame. Foxx really went all in with every facet of his performance as he was sensational in the action department as well.
Now comes the part of the review where I talk about my least favorite part of the movie. It has to do with Audrey as the main baddie. Nothing against the actress, but I was just never blown over by the villain and Jablonski’s showdown with her left a little to be desired. It doesn’t matter if it would be a man or a woman, but I just wanted somebody more formidable in that department. Hell, I think Gal Gadot would have lit the screen on fire like she always does. Audrey just didn’t have enough bite (pun intended) in my eyes. Again, this didn’t dimmish anything at all for movie and my love for this movie.
Netflix should just hire Hargrave, Perry or another director with stunt and action experience to helm their action flicks because then we would get something worth paying the subscription for. Case in point, Interceptor was another clunker for me, and it was helmed by a first timer as well who had no experience with action filmmaking whatsoever and it showed throughout. The Gray Man was directed by The Russo Brothers and even though they excel with comic book flicks, more traditional adrenaline just isn’t their forte. I see a pattern here and if you don’t, well, you’re just not looking too hard.
Another strong selling point to this movie is that the action and stunts were done with mostly practical effects. It gave the film a real vintage action look and it transported me back to those days when CGI wasn’t known. I normally don’t enjoy car chases that much but this one has a thrill ride that puts you in the front seat and hits the pedal to the metal. The vampires are horrifying and scary and the way some of them can twist and turn was really unsettling to watch sometimes. Make no mistake, I love unsettling. From the get-go, we get to see just how jaw dropping these creatures are and the effects sell it from beginning to end.
The soundtrack fits the bill too as we are treated with hip hop, rap and Snoop Dogg pizzazz throughout. Each song picked just fits the bill perfectly and Kudos for Perry and the boys using Ice-T’s Body Count. That’s a straight up homage to action films as it was first used in the original Universal Soldier. When it started playing, my head immediately went into thrashing mode. Until I got a headache that is.
Overall, J.J. Perry gets a definite A for effort with his first directing gig as all those years of experience has honed his skills behind the camera. His time in front of the camera has served him well too and he’s another shining example of action directors who know what to do. Jamie Foxx crushes it in the lead and Dave Franco will crack you up all the way through and sports a rocking neck brace I might add. Scott Adkins and Steve Howey as The Nazarian Brothers were the best part, and the action was elevated when they were on screen. Aside from a weak antagonist, I loved everything about this movie, and I want this to be the winning franchise for Netflix instead of that other 200-million-dollar film that fumbled it on the one-yard line.
To put it simply, J.J. Perry and crew have delivered an action-horror-comedy that drips with 80’s vintage vampire vibes and action set pieces that document just how awesome the 87Eleven crew really is. This one isn’t for the kiddies though so put them to sleep, turn off all the lights and submerse yourself into all the blood, gore, dark humor and extreme action that you can handle. Day Shift is a winner that takes a massive bite out of the competition!