Day Shift tackles familiar territory with refreshing style, breeziness, and memorably enjoyable characters, as well as delivering some of the year’s best action.
Despite being a relatively derivative concoction — a little bit Blade, a little bit Constantine, a little bit John Wick — Netflix’s new vampire action comedy Day Shift has enough personality and sturdy, silly violence to make it feel downright refreshing. Jamie Foxx is Bud Jablonksi, introduced to us as a humble Los Angeles pool cleaner, before we very quickly realize that, you guessed it, the pool guy thing is a cover and he’s actually a professional vampire hunter, albeit a down-and-out one, of course. He’s on the outs with the vampire killer union for unpaid dues and some questionable conduct, which is a problem because he also needs to come up with some quick cash to prevent his ex-wife from picking up and moving across the country with his little daughter. Along the way he’s saddled with a tetchy union rep/comic relief sidekick (Dave Franco), and he obviously runs afoul of a deadly vampire gang boss (Karla Souza) who has a to-be-revealed personal beef with Bud.
There’s honestly little in there that isn’t cribbed from other (though not necessarily better) stuff, but where Day Shift excels is less in narrative than in milieu. The goofy systems in which this takes place — bureaucracies, arcane rituals, the numerous ways in which this hidden world conceals itself from the rest of us — are far more interesting than the story that’s being told within them. Which is entirely fine, even preferable, because it means we get to spend the most time just hanging out with the characters and observing the world in which they work. You also get incredibly colorful cameos from the likes of Snoop Dogg, who’s hilarious as minigun-toting old sage Big John, and a welcome but all-too-brief appearance from DTV stalwart Scott Adkins as a rival vamp killer. Foxx is credible as a guy just doing a job where the occupational hazards are getting torn apart by bloodsuckers, and his combination of exasperation and competence is pitch perfect. It’s simply fun to spend time with these folks.
Day Shift also puts some of the best action of the year on glorious display. This is the first time helming for director J.J. Perry, a veteran stunt performer, coordinator, and second unit man — and not for nothing, this is also an 87Eleven Entertainment production, the company behind the now ubiquitous Wick style — and he manages to bring something a little novel to the table. The simple idea that the armies of redshirt bad guys getting blown away are superpowered undead lends a new dimension of physicality to the fights and shootouts, as bodies are launched through the air, blasted apart, or twisted out of shape. There’s a lot more variety here than just guys hitting the floor. There’s also a terrific mid-movie car chase that’s augmented by cinematographer Toby Oliver’s sunbaked, pink-and-blue candy-coated color palette. You could do much worse for a breezy, stylish take on some well-worn material, and with so much room in its world-building to keep slathering on more playful detail, a sequel or two seems in order, and earned.