Both feature unapologetically masculine protagonists who take us into a world that is both secret and cool. The action is spectacular. The themes are universal. The goal is only to awe, entertain, and satisfy.
The people who brought us John Wick and Nobody have just delivered Day Shift to Netflix—another flat-out crowd pleaser.
Oscar winner Jamie Foxx is perfectly cast as Bud Jablonski, a put-upon pool cleaner trying to squeeze out a living in the sun-baked San Fernando Valley. He’s broke. He’s estranged from his wife. He’s desperate to be a good dad to his young daughter. Unfortunately, things just keep getting in the way—primarily his vampire hunting.
You see, Bud is a secret vampire hunter/bounty hunter. The undead litter the Valley, and their fangs are worth money. The older the vampire, the more those fangs are worth.
Plot contrivances occur, and Bud suddenly needs a whole lot of money … by Monday. His only hope is to re-join the Vampire Killing Union that booted him years ago for various policy violations. Thanks to his old friend and legendary vampire hunter Big John Elliott (Snoop Dogg oozing charisma in a supporting role), Bud’s given one last chance. What he doesn’t know is that union boss (Eric Lange) has deliberately set him up for failure. Bud’s new partner, Seth (Dave Franco), has no experience hunting vampires. Instead, he’s a cowardly but ambitious bureaucrat sent to spy and snitch on Bud.
Day Shift never rises to the level of Nobody or John Wick, two movies that made you believe in their worlds and the circumstances of their protagonists. Bud’s dilemma, his need for money to “save his family,” is never believable or makes much sense. The story’s central relationship — it’s a buddy comedy between Bud and Seth — never gels. The actors lack that magic chemistry needed to put the concept over. There’s also something hollow, rushed, and unfinished about the world-building.
Nevertheless, Day Shift is all kinds of fun. Foxx has a blast playing a character full of wisecracks, swagger, and vampire killing-competence. The action scenes, especially after Foxx and his fellow hunters come upon a hive, are spectacular. In its own predictable way, the plot moves right along. The fact that the story makes little sense and there’s no tension or sense of peril hardly matter. This is more of a candy-colored cartoon than anything else.
It’s also fun to watch Bud mock Seth, the Millennial Snowflake of all Millennial Snowflakes. Seth eats bran, wears lime green, doesn’t like guns, does love rules and regulations, and Bud — a guy’s guy who believes in getting the job done while driving a pickup — is having none of it.
It’s no accident that John Wick, Nobody, and now Day Shift hail from a group of stuntmen turned filmmakers. Stuntmen are probably the last remaining group of regular guys in the entertainment business. Like John Wick director and Day Shift producer Chad Stahelski, Day Shift’s director J.J. Perry is a longtime stuntman, and The Great Hal Needham — an iconic stuntman turned filmmaker (Smokey and the Bandit, Hooper, Cannonball Run) — appears to be their spirit guide.
Thankfully, just like Needham, this new breed of stuntmen-turned-filmmakers are primarily interested in entertaining the hell out of us— nothing more, nothing less. In this age of smug and fascist “entertainment,” their respect for we the audience should be embraced, appreciated, and most of all, encouraged.