Film Review – Day Shift
Day Shift (2022) exists in that weird area between great and terrible. On the surface, it is silly, over the top, and ridiculous. Yet, there is a level of energy that makes it more entertaining than it has any right to be. The campiness is raised to the max, with a narrative that embraces how preposterous this all is. It is goofy in its story of vampires and vampire hunters in L.A. – but I was never bored watching it. Sometimes, the fun factor can be just enough to make junk food cinema worth the trip. I’m not sure if this is a good bad movie, or if it’s a bad good movie.
J.J. Perry makes his directorial debut here. Prior to this, Perry’s career was primarily as a stunt man. That experience makes its presence known in the action. Along with writers Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten, Perry structures the plot as a means to showcase the choreography. We get plenty of scenes involving rabid vampires getting killed by experienced, efficient hunters. Most of these exchanges are close range, with bone breaking hand to hand combat, bloody decapitations, or point blank gunshots. Fans of the John Wick (2014) franchise will see similarities in execution, as our heroes get bombarded by an army of bloodsuckers. It’s hilarious how enemies pop out from every corner or through every wall relentlessly, or how weapons never run out of ammunition. In one scene, characters fight vampires inside of a safe house. The number of vampires compared to the size of the house makes absolutely no sense, but that’s the kind of movie we’re getting.
The ingenuity of this world is placed within the systems and processes of the hunters. Again, just as John Wick brought us into an underground labyrinth of assassins, we’re introduced to a place where hunters operate under an established set of codes. Hunters must follow rules to track, kill, and de-fang vampires. If they commit a violation, they could lose compensation or worse, get kicked out of the vampire hunter union all together. That is the dilemma that faces Bud Jablonski (Jamie Foxx). Bud was kicked out of his union for committing too many violations. When he learns that his ex-wife (Meagan Good) and daughter (Zion Broadnax) will leave L.A. if he doesn’t get his finances in order, Bud makes a plea to get back in the union. With the help of his friend and fellow hunter Big John (Snoop Dogg), Bud is granted temporary membership, but now must ride along with union rep Seth (Dave Franco) to make sure he stays in line.
Some of the funnier interactions are between Bud trying to earn a quick buck and Seth tracking his every move. The two make for an odd ball couple. Foxx plays Bud with a weathered, near desperate frustration, whereas Franco makes Seth a nebbish, inexperienced agent. Some of the comedy goes a little too far – there’s a running gag about Seth wetting his pants at the first sign of trouble that induced a chuckle but quickly wore out. The two operate best when Seth tries to stick to the rules, even though situations call for those rules to be bent or even broken. One big laugh comes when Seth pays Bud for a recent kill but subtracts a number deductions, fees, and down payments. The scene plays like an employee watching their paycheck dwindle at the hands of a stuffy accountant.
When compared to the intricacies of the hunter union, the depiction of the vampires is more generic. Yes, we get expositional dialogue explaining how groups are divided, how they work together or not, and how best to kill each one depending on what category they belong to. But none of that stuff is remotely interesting. When the mayhem starts, they all turn into the familiar monsters we recognize. Karla Souza appears as the big bad antagonist, although the writing and direction does not give the character much nuance. We learn that she hides under the guise of a real estate mogul, but we never see her working in that role. It should be noted that the production may have hired every available contortionist in the business, as we get image after image of vampires twisting and turning their bodies in every direction. I counted the number of times a performers’ legs get flipped over their back, Cirque de Soleil style, and I stopped counting after 5 or 6. For the most part, the vampires are nameless faces – meant to pad the body count for our heroes.
Character development is not exactly something that is stressed in this story. The relationship Bud has with his daughter and ex-wife is meant to be the central emotional arc, but fizzles before it ever gets going. Even the dynamic between Bud and Seth feels half realized. Their bond is the classic case of two people from different walks of life coming to an understanding and mutual respect. But that storyline takes a nosedive in the latter stages. In fact, there are some major tonal shifts that make us wonder what story is being told. Is this about a father trying to cling to his family? Is this about two unlikely people becoming friends? Is it a rescue mission? In a weird way, it’s all of them but none of them at the same time. The narrative touches all of these elements but never fleshes them out in a satisfying way. It’s fine for a movie to simply be a stage for its action, but when these other factors are set up and never followed through, it makes the entire piece incomplete.
Even with those gripes, I still had a fun time with Day Shift. When the most memorable image is that of Snoop Dogg, wearing a cowboy hat, mowing down vampires with a machine gun, you kinda have to accept the wackiness for what it is. No, this not going to have a lasting impact – I’m sure most of us won’t remember it this time next month. But as time filler, it does the job. If you ever wanted to watch Jamie Foxx fight an elderly grandma vampire, you’ve come to the right place.