Day Shift

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Vampire hunters have taken many forms over the years; hell, even Van Helsing himself has had more facelifts than Jackie Stallone, but with Netflix’s new action horror comedy, Day Shift, we get a new version to… sink our teeth into. Joining multiple Helsings, Buffy Summers Peter Vincent, Jack Crow and that old geezer from The Lost Boys is Jaime Foxx who takes another swing at a streaming blockbuster after his gritty 2020 superpowers epic Project Power by making a quick buck wiping out bloodsuckers with extreme prejudice.
But while this concept isn’t exactly new – there’s a distinct tang of Men In Black meets From Dusk Till Dawn pumping through its bloodstream – can Day Shift deliver all the thrills and spills necessary to ensure a fun summer night in when the sun goes down?

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Bud Jablonski is, on the surface, a lowly pool cleaner who plys his trade under the Californian sun, but unbeknownst to his estranged wife and daughter, he has a whole other job when the sun goes down. Bud is actually in the trade of vampire hunting and gets cash in hand for any removed fangs he can sell to buyers for the going rate – however, because Bud has been kicked out of the vampire hunters union for his rather unorthodox methods of bringing down his prey, the going rate is rapidly going down. It’s not a good time to be skint either as resorting to enquiring after a black history month discount when buy his beloved daughter a frozen yogurt is the least of Jablonski’s troubles. Funds for school tuition and a hefty bill looming for his daughter’s orthodontist work means that if he doesn’t come up with the money within a week, his ex-wife and will have no choice but to move her and their daughter to Floria to live with her mother.
Desperate to get a better rate, Bud gets his buddy, the legendary vamp killer Big J, to convince union guy, Ralph, to let him back in and it works – sort of. As he works through a probationary period, Bud has to let suit wearing straight arrow Seth tag along who will report back on any transgressions he spots while Bud is on the job which naturally causes the usual odd-couple shenanigans between the two.
However, an even more dire problem raises its head in the form of vampire real estate agent Audrey San Fernando, who’s plan to unite all the different types of vampires together under one banner to reclaim the night, but he attention is drawn to Bud thanks to the fact that he recently exterminated her elderly daughter (it’s a immortal thing) and she marshalls her fanged forces toward getting her the revenge she seeks. For Bud, this means he has to swiftly go from providing for his family to protecting them, but can he endure, even with Big J and Seth as back up?

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With a plot that often feels like it was born from a weed-fueled brain storming session set some time in the late nineties (what if… like… vampire hunters had a union, dude…), you can tell that Day Shift isn’t exactly going to be a morose treatment about the woes of immortal life, or a meditation on the grinding pressure of earning a living, but while the action horror comedy proves to be wilfully as shallow as a puddle of ant spit, there’s plenty of dumb chuckles to be had from its enjoyable concept and its perky action beats.
Jamie Foxx is hardly stretching himself here as he plays yet another wise cracker who vicariously lives from paycheck to paycheck much in the style of a far more mellow version of Motherfucker Jones from Horrible Bosses, but he’s obviously having a shit-load of fun, blowing vampiric old biddies clear across their apartments with a well placed shotgun blast.
In fact, Foxx isn’t the only one having fun while coasting a little as virtually everyone and everything in the film plays to type. Snoop Dogg plays Snoop Dogg, Dave Franco gets a ton of mileage (and a string of jokes about repeatedly pissing himself) playing up the awkward white guy angle and the movie even has the nerve to open with sun kissed shots of California while 2-Pac’s staggeringly overused (but still awesome) California Love plays. The movie noticably feels like the sort of knockabout gore-fest you would have gotten around the early noughties and anything that doesn’t contain shrieking vamps getting smoked or Foxx chucking out a wry one-liner doesn’t really get a look in.
Snoop’s vampire hunter, named (what else) Big J and vampy neighbour Heather barely have a shred of an arc between them and Meagan Good’s irritated wife feels more like a template than an actual character – but most annoyingly, there seems to be quite a bit of mileage wasted in Karla Souza’s power suited mover and shaker (think Netflix’s Selling Sunset crossed with Santanico Pandemonium) who never rises above being a generic, if immaculately attired, villain.

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However, one place where Day Shift feels thrillingly up to date is with its absurdly muscular action sequences which goes a huge way towards making some of it’s more weaker moments not seem to matter so much – sure Snoop goes through the motions, but he does it while slicing through vampire familiars with a minigun that blazes more than he does.
The reason the action goes so fucking hard is that first time feature helmer J.J. Perry, who is yet another product of the 87eleven group of stuntmen turned director and the various sights of stunt performers violently having their airborne trajectories altered by a blast of garlic buckshot or a supernaturally strong fist never fails to elicit a air punching “ooooh!“. Similarly, some highly imaginative gore gives the punching and kicking the visceral oomph it needs such as a decapitation by flat screen TV and a character having their arm being ripped off and being beaten with it – finally! Elsewhere, the vamps themselves are a impressively slippery breed with them bending and contorting in and out of fight sequences like immortality has granted them spines made out of purest jelly and adds yet another cool wrinkle to the consistently excellent action. In fact, a segue that sees Bud team up with a couple of seasoned hunter brothers played by Steve Howey and criminally under appreciated action star Scott Adkins not only screams spinoff, but is also one of the tightest action sequences of the year as the frenetic incident is clearly mapped out and easy to follow despite bring absolutely fucking crazy.

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There’s a lot about Day Shift that you’ve no doubt seen dozens of times before, but Perry plays to his strengths and let’s Foxx and Franco’s smart mouths fill in the rest – it may be as overly familiar as a vampire’s clingy servant (Get it? Familiar?) but this bloody blue collar blowout is some serious, undemanding fun.

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