Day Shift’s gory, cheesy, vampire-hunting comedy-action film starring Jamie Foxx and Dave Franco is exactly what you expect, and that’s a good thing. The contortionist vampires are fun to watch, especially as they’re used for grapple-heavy impromptu martial-arts matches, and the soundtrack is solid. Between the relative success of Project Power and Day Shift, Foxx has figured out a Netflix lane with these effects-driven action films. Hopefully he makes a third.
Foxx plays Bud, a vampire hunter that disguises himself as a pool cleaner, who has to put together $10,000 for his daughter Paige’s (Zion Broadnax) tuition and braces to keep his estranged wife Joss (Meagan Good) from selling their home and moving to Florida. He has a weekend to do this and, unbeknownst to him, the realtor Audrey San Fernando (Karla Souza) is a vampire uniting different clans and subspecies in the San Fernando Valley. But freelance vampire trophy rates aren’t what they used to be, so Bud has to get himself back in the vampire hunting union’s good graces to maximize his income and keep his family together.
The “secret society/assassin” backdrop feels like a combination of Blade and John Wick. After widely respected, cowboy-styled vampire hunter Big John Elliot (Snoop Dogg) gets Bud back in with the group, creepy supervisor Ralph Seeger (Eric Lange) forces Bud to work with accountant-clerk Seth (Franco), and the conversations between Seth and Bud flesh out the world. Day Shift isn’t by any means minimalist, but it makes generally efficient use of its cast and sets. Moments or characters could be cut for brevity, but why? This is a movie about maximizing a bloody good time, and it succeeds.
Among the many combat sequences, there’s a car chase that goes off road and leads into the L.A. River while making use of drone shots, though not to the level of something like the excellent Carter. The same scene utilizes a camera in a wheel well behind the shock absorbers, which I really fancied. The wild ride might be one of the bigger suspension-of-disbelief tests for the endearing father-daughter relationship between Bud and Paige…if Day Shift wasn’t already a high-energy vampire-hunting action-comedy.
Yes, the script gets hammy, but Foxx performs a knowing earnestness—he commits to the bit, leaning in for big bites of the chewy dialogue. In fact, while it is a comedy, it relies less on quips than you might worry. Granted, Franco plays a dweeb, but it’s less uncomfortably outdated than I expected, save for a pointless, fatphobic cholesterol joke. There were also times when Souza’s sprinklings of Spanish reminded me of criticisms of Far Cry 6, but it was soothed in scenes when she was just speaking Spanish. I wonder if she interceded with writers Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten.
The ending overall is very similar—structurally, if not thematically—to Blade and a dozen other action movies. It’s far less bittersweet or morally interesting than Blade, though it leaves open the question of what happens to vampires that help vampire hunters. It’s got interesting implications, some of which you don’t want to think too hard about (there are L.A.P.D. cops in the vampire hunter union hideout, and apparently the code calls for law enforcement to be notified in some situations), but which allude to other semi-recent vampire riffs (there are paintings of Abe Lincoln and Frederick Douglass in the secret hideout). It also undercuts some of the dramatic weight by buying back two notable character deaths—one that adds somewhat meaningfully to the plot, and another that felt like a last-minute decision in hopes of a sequel.
Day Shift is a successful directorial debut for long-time stunt coordinator J.J. Perry. It isn’t a revelation, but it’s mirthful and violent and feels like everyone involved had fun making it while taking their jobs seriously. Streaming is essentially the contemporary version of straight-to-video, and for some movies (like Prey) that feels like a major distribution-side miscalculation. Day Shift isn’t quite at that franchise-affirming level, but I’d have loved to have seen it in a theater. Part of me wishes it was a grimier, rougher film released on Shudder, with the same cast and creative team more directly evoking 1970s exploitation over 1980s action-comedy-horror, but, if you spent the early 2000s wishing Blade crossed over with Bad Boys or Lethal Weapon, Netflix has got your ticket.
Director: J.J. Perry
Writers: Tyler Tice, Shay Hatten
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco, Karla Souza, Meagan Good, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Snoop Dogg
Release Date: August 12, 2022 (Netflix)
Kevin Fox, Jr. is a freelance writer with an MA in history, who loves videogames, film, TV, and sports, and dreams of liberation. He can be found on Twitter @kevinfoxjr.