(from left) Jamie Foxx as Bud Jablonski and Snoop Dogg as Big John Eliott in JJ Perry’s Day Shift. Photo: Netflix
Day Shift marks the feature film debut of stunt coordinator JJ Perry – as well as the latest attempt by John Wick filmmakers David Leitch and Chad Stahelski’s 87 North Productions to bring together high-profile stars with high-profile, action-packed worldbuilding. If you’ve seen the John Wick movies or Nobody, Kate and Bullet Train, you know what you’re getting into. These are highly propelled, working-class slugfests that sink or swim based on cast chemistry and how many bodies end up being beaten and bloodied in their wake. This time around, assassins, vaguely European crime bosses, and the yakuza are replaced by vampires who craft equally viable blood sacs.
Suffice it to say, Day Shift isn’t exactly breaking new ground, but it’s a hell of a time for a night at home on the couch: Sometimes all you need is Jamie Foxx in a Hawaiian shirt and Snoop Dogg as a black cowboy slaughtering hundreds of vampires with swords, shotguns, gatling guns, garlic grenades and decapitating roundhouse kicks.
A hard working working class father who just wants to give his quick witted 8 year old daughter a good life. His mundane job cleaning pools in the San Fernando Valley is a cover for his real source of income: hunting and killing vampires.
Foxx plays Bud Jablonski, a name that practically guarantees the role wasn’t written for him, and yet he finds a way to own it. Recently divorced and trying to support his daughter Paige (Zion Broadnax) and ex-wife Joss (Meagan Good), Bud struggles to make a living on the sun-scorched pavement of California’s San Fernando Valley. But while everyone else thinks he’s just a simple pool cleaner, Bud is secretly a vampire hunter who gets paid for the teeth he collects. The rarer the vampire type – Elder, Uber, Spider, Eastern, Southern, Juvie – and the better the condition of the teeth, the more he can do with them.
The only problem is that the big bucks are being made by The Union, a global association of vampire hunters who kicked Bud out years ago. Selling to a backroom agent (Peter Stormare) just isn’t enough. And when his ex announces plans to move to Florida with Paige, Bud faces a three-day window to earn enough money to keep her home in LA.
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Foxx, who also produced the film, perfectly captures the mood of an unconventional, charismatic, working-class parent. It’s nothing he hasn’t done before, and the film doesn’t ask much of Foxx, but he’s fun to hang out with in a story that’s bursting with light-hearted, leisurely energy. Like most of the aforementioned 87 North films, there are plenty of presentation speeches – some delivered more skillfully than others, and all building a world that suggests ambition for a potential franchise. Authors Shay Hatten and Tyler Tice point to a vampire hunting boom in Paris, and one imagines the mysterious vampire boss El Jefe might later be explored. And while we don’t see how Bud came to his current work, it’s clear that The Union has been around for a while.
To get back into the vampire hunting club, Bud’s friend Big John (Snoop Dogg) needs a little help, who manages to charm their mullet-wearing boss, Ralph (Eric Lange), on the condition that Bud works the “day shift” and agrees to accompany a union representative, Seth (Dave Franco), on his duties. This is where the film really heats up and becomes a buddy film, as Bud’s old-school experience aligns with Seth’s book savvy. Franco feels perfectly attuned to Foxx’s wit, and the film gains a lot of momentum simply by pitting them against each other. As a larger plot eventually forms, the film is at its best when played loosely, such as during a house raid where the two join forces with a few other vampire hunters played by Scott Adkins and Steve Howey. Perry is at his best in scenes like this, where he reiterates his faith as the coordinator of bombastic, over-the-top action and gore.
day shift | Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco and Snoop Dogg | Official Trailer | Netflix
Eventually, Bud and Seth become embroiled in a real estate conspiracy involving a community for vampires led by Audrey San Fernando (Karla Souza), whose name immediately makes it sound like it was specially designed for metal signs found in newly mown trees lawn to be pressed. It’s a convincingly low-brow vampire conspiracy that ends up being more about personal vendetta than any doomsday plots. While it’s not exactly a gripping plot, it’s refreshing to see a vampire movie that doesn’t revolve around a prophecy, a cure, or ending the sun — which cinematographer Toby Oliver (Happy Death Day) captures with a sometimes unbearable vibrancy .
The film’s final scenes, which incorporate another character named Heather (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) and offer one character a surprising twist of fate, don’t quite capture the energy of the unfolding acts. Perry has already used his best moves by this point, and the final showdown between Bud and Audrey feels almost superficial. But even with that finale winding down, the overall journey there feels satisfying. Day Shift isn’t rewriting the vampire or action film, but fusing the two — and inserting energetic leads into the middle of that mix — offers the kind of late-summer genre fun that not only gets your blood pumping, but a smile on that face.