Okay, it’s not necessarily an across-the-board universal truth or anything but I think we can all agree that there’s a degree of sameness to a lot of Netflix originals. That was my main concern going into “Day Shift”. Being J.J. Perry’s debut feature, I’m guessing a lot of people reading this had similar concerns about what could go wrong with this film. In my case, I’m confident in saying that my concerns were coming from a completely different place. I was concerned less as a fan of action films and moreso as a diehard fan of the vampire movie subgenre. Luckily for me (and for everyone who is coming to “Day Shift”), those concerns turned out to be much completely unfounded and I ended up shockingly impressed.
If you also know as little as I did about “Day Shift” going in, I will try to keep things as spoiler-free as possible. The basic plot of the movie is that Bud Jablonski (which may be the weirdest name for a Jamie Foxx character ever, but I digress…) is estranged from his wife and daughter, who believe him to be a humble Californian pool cleaner. In reality though, he’s making his living hunting down vampires. Granted, he isn’t making much of a living. He’s essentially scraping by working freelance and no longer a part of the vampire hunters union. He’s a man with a bad reputation. It’s not something that seems to bother Bud all that much when we meet him. It becomes a major concern when his family starts preparing to move far away from him in search of greener pastures across the country in Florida. In desperation, he’s is brought into the union by his pal Big John (Snoop Dogg) and given a probationary period where he will be observed by the pencil-pushing Seth (Dave Franco) to determine whether or not he’ll be welcomed into the union again and put into a position to better provide for his family, hopefully convincing them to stay in California. To say any more than that would tread into spoiler territory but suffice it to say that the bickering “Dead Heat”/”Tango & Cash” dynamic between Bud and Seth is nothing compared to a much bloodier conflict that is slowly working its way to the surface in the San Fernando Valley.
As I said from the jump, I am a massive fan of vampire movies. I don’t think there’s any way to overstate that fact. I absolutely love vampire movies. There’s something about vampires that makes them the most malleable of all the monsters. Sure, there are many excellent horror films featuring vampires but they seem to be able to fit within any genre you want to throw them into. Yeah, there’s obviously teen romance like “Twilight” but there are also action films like “From Dusk Till Dawn” or even science fiction ones like “Lifeforce”. Somehow if you put a vampire into another genre, there’s a reasonable chance of it working. I can’t even fully understand it, let alone explain it. It does make anything featuring them an easy sell for me though. All I knew about “Day Shift” walking in was that it was the directorial debut of stuntman J.J. Perry, that it starred Jamie Foxx, and that there were vampires. I took the ride and ended up being treated to one of the most fun movies I’ve seen in a while.
I should probably lay on the table at this point that the primary focus of my geekery is horror. More than any other genre, horror is my greatest love. That’s not to say that I don’t love action movies though. I grew up on action almost as much as I did horror. Horror and action are by far the most visceral and appealing of all genre cinema in my eyes. I’m just bringing it up to make it clear that before this film… my knowledge of J.J. Perry’s work was minimal. I knew he was revered in the martial arts community and for his stunt work but that was pretty much it. Having seen “Day Shift” though, I’m excited to see what else he does as a director because this film proves that he has a genuine flair for it. I mean, yeah, the action scenes are obviously great. You probably assumed that though. As someone who went in not knowing what to expect, for a large part of the first act, I was wondering if the rest of the movie would live up to the glee of the clearly Raimi-inspired opening scene. It turned out that the answer was yes, absolutely. It takes a bit to get there but “Day Shift” ends up as a wholly entertaining genre mashup in the best imaginable way. It’s truly a movie that builds and builds as it gains momentum in a way that one can’t help but be impressed by.
In case you didn’t catch on from who I mentioned earlier, the cast is incredibly intriguing as well. I generally find Jamie Foxx to be kind of hit or miss but he’s great here. Able to handle whatever’s required of him, whether that be pathos, comedy, or bone-crunching action… he absolutely earns the whole movie gravitating around him. He owns it. “Day Shift” is his movie. No question. More than him though, while I’ve liked Dave Franco for over a decade now, this is almost certainly the most entertaining performance he’s had on film to date. As Seth, he’s mostly tasked with comedy beats. When called upon though, he definitely holds his own in the action scenes. I was really impressed with what he was able to pull off overall. Snoop Dogg (as well as Steve Howey and Scott Adkins to a lesser extent) have pretty small roles but not only handle what they’re given with aplomb, they end up being possibly the most memorable of the whole movie. I’m incredibly down for “Day Shift” spinoffs featuring these guys.
I can’t overstate how impressed I was with “Day Shift”. This movie being what it is feels like a miracle. There’s not really any sameness anywhere in its DNA. It may not be completely and totally different from anything you’ve ever seen before, sure, but the most apt comparisons I could make are fairly obscure genre entertainment of yesteryear more than anything coming out these days. It’s not only a throwback in some of the best possible ways, it’s just a truly engaging movie that stands on its own as a great piece of entertainment, with more personality than much of what’s been released over the last few years. Action, horror, whatever. “Day Shift” is a great time and well worth yours.
DAY SHIFT will be available to stream on Netflix starting Friday 12, 2022