This review originally appeared in the North Texas e-News.
Walk into any grocery store these days and you’ll get the uncanny feeling that your calendar is wrong. Halloween candy and Oktoberfest signs already blanket the aisles despite it feeling like a sweltering 95 F outside. Much like the big chain stores, Hollywood isn’t waiting long to kick off the Halloween season this year though. The recently released Day Shift is an action-comedy vampire flick in the vein of cult classics like Zombieland. Unfortunately, just like the pumpkin spice in a Starbucks coffee, it comes on just a little too strong for its own good at times.
From the opening scene, the action part of this movie’s equation isn’t the problem. Viewers barely see Jamie Foxx’s Bud Jablonski before he’s ditching his pool cleaning disguise to fight a vampiric old lady. That almost sounds like a mismatch on paper in any other horror movie, but Day Shift’s vampires are different. They all move like some kind of preternatural mixed martial arts-trained contortionists, even the old ladies. It makes for raucous fight scenes that have their own distinct style compared to similar movies.
If you’re wondering why these vampires are a tad more athletic than Bela Lugosi, have no fear. It doesn’t really matter. For the most part, you can just sit back and enjoy a number of karate kicking, body slamming fight scenes without so much as a thought.
That’s both a positive and a negative for Day Shift. While it doesn’t waste long setting up a decent enough plot, Bud has to raise $10,000 in a week to keep his family from moving to Florida which forces him to rejoin the big-business vampire hunting union that kicked him out, it’s light on explanations in a lot of places. While there’s some painstakingly drawn-out explanations of the hunting process, Day Shift’s oftentimes glosses over the finer points of the world that surrounds it in a way that makes it hard to totally immerse yourself in the movie if you accidentally turn your brain back on for a minute.
Normally, that wouldn’t be much of a problem. After all, the viewer only really needs to know that vampire fangs fetch big money depending on how old they are to appreciate the vast majority of the plot. Less talk means more time for vampire bashing too after all, and that’s what those who check out Day Shift should be waiting for.
The movie runs an hour and 53 minutes though. Even the best action movies can’t keep up the pace for that long without some relief, so that brings us to Dave Franco’s Seth.
The union assigns Seth to watch Bud to make sure he doesn’t mess up again. Apparently, Bud was something of a wildcard in the past to say the least. In fact, the only reason he gets back into the union is thanks to his high-profile friend Big John Elliott played by Snoop Dogg. Thus, the stage is set for some buddy cop shenanigans, just not the ones between Snoop Dogg’s Big John and Foxx’s Bud that viewers may have expected and craved.
Instead, Franco’s Seth bumbles into the world of vampire hunting alongside Bud. Seth is a desk clerk and rules enforcer at the union, not a hunter. For the most part, that just means he whines and cries his way through each scene in what are oftentimes supposed to be funny fish-out-of-water moments, but usually just end up grating timewasters.
Seth is too over-the-top impetuous and insecure to even be an underdog character for a majority of the movie. While Day Shift does seem to recognize that and do some character rehab in the last quarter of its runtime, the result just feels disjointed and raises more questions that the movie doesn’t feel willing to answer.
That’s not to say all the comedy scenes are bad either. Foxx charms his way through a lot of scenes that might otherwise feel tacky which has the effect of sanding down even the roughest of the movie’s edges. A couple of his later interactions with Seth are legitimately funny, plus it’s electric any time he shares a scene with Snoop Dogg’s Big John.
Speaking of Snoop Dogg, it should be no surprise that he embodies everything that works about Day Shift. He’s effortlessly cool and undeniably funny any time he steps on screen, despite essentially having a supporting role.
A tight hour and a half movie with Foxx and Snoop Dogg trading banter would have been the best Day Shift could have offered. It would have avoided a lot more of the annoying or eye-rolling humor, there’s at least four bathroom jokes too many in the film, and instead replaced it with a sleeker, more stylized tone.
A shorter runtime may have helped streamline some of the movie’s excess to a point that a bit more relevant plot could have shone through as well, especially as it related to obvious questions about Day Shift’s world and the vampires that inhabit it like Karla Souza’s underutilized villainess Audrey San Fernando.
Nonetheless, the movie Netflix subscribers got is still largely worth the time. Fun, hard-hitting action combined with just enough passable humor to keep the movie fresh makes Day Shift good enough to warrant an early start to spooky season.
Spotlight Score: 6/10