‘Day Shift’ Review: Jamie Foxx is the Vampire Hunter as Working Stiff
Day Shift is a vampire thriller packed with lock-and-load ultraviolence, starring Jamie Foxx in commanding badass mode. At its core, however, it’s a deliberately eccentric flaw of a film, to the point that it’s difficult for a while not to find it enjoyable, even when you realize what an absurd piece of fluff it is. Unfortunately, it’s also a laborious piece of fluff. It’s packed with jaw-dropping action scenes and rules, too – a satirical vampire cosmology that’s fun until it starts to get just convoluted enough to give you a headache, especially when the rules are applied as inconsistently as they are here. Directed by JJ Perry, Day Shift aims to be a blood-soaked dessert. That gives it flavor, but also weighs it down.
Foxx plays Bud Jablonski, a Los Angeles vampire hunter whose day job is driving around in a vintage pickup truck to clean and maintain swimming pools in the San Fernando Valley. Bud’s only goal is to get his hands on $10,000, which he needs to pay for braces and elementary school tuition for his 8-year-old daughter, Paige (Zion Broadnax). (If he doesn’t have the money by Monday, his ex-wife, played by Meagan Good, will take the child to Florida.) He plans to get the money by selling vampire fangs, which, once extracted, are very valuable can be, depending on which bloodsucker they come from.
Sounds easy right? But “Day Shift,” which is simultaneously an undead action movie, a sassy good cop/crazy cop buddies comedy, and the story of a tough but devout divorced father who wants to save his family, is one of the more perversely twisted vampire films in recent memory. There are five types of vampires in this movie, classified by age: Southern, Eastern, Spider, Uber, and Juvenile. I have it? Don’t worry if you don’t because none of this will be too much.
How do you kill the vampires? By being shot through the heart with special African hardwood, then cut off their heads with a silver blade. There is a black market sunscreen that allows the vampires to be in the SoCal daylight for maybe 20 minutes. (That’s not much either.) And once they’re killed, they release a special gas that you have to get rid of. Bud has a special orange-yellow powder that you can use in the shower. Important rule: Do not let powder get into the butt hole!
Having the vampires killed by decapitation is the closest thing the film has to having an untouchable law (similar to “kill the brain and you kill the ghoul”). Until a key vampire is decapitated, only to have his head laid right back on himself, like something out of An American Werewolf in London. There are also vampires who are more loyal to humans than other vampires. Why even ask why?
“Day Shift” is the type of movie where Bud walks into a suburban house and two teenagers play video games (they’re teenage vampires) and after they’re knocked out, Bud realizes the house is a crush of vampires which point one of the vampire hunter brothers, with whom he has allied himself, announces “Showtime, brother!” Check out the vampire extras in bright makeup and what looks like costume shop fangs, bursting through doors, falling through ceilings and clawing through walls to become instant ballistic fodder. The vampire fight scenes aren’t particularly exciting because they all boil down to the same thing: the cannon shots send the vampires hurtling backwards, but they fix themselves instantly and keep coming at you – spinning and spider-walking, attacking in a distorted madness. Until you can bang your head off, which this film does with a devotion that becomes numbing.
The main villain is a glamorous vampire real estate agent, Audrey (Karla Souza), who is out to colonize the valley by building the houses there as vampire hives. Unfortunately for her, Foxx’ Bud is a military veteran who’s utterly mercenary when it comes to killing vampires and is fiercely cut and dried in his action mega moves. Its vampire-hunter-to-work-stuff vibe ties into the film’s most flamboyant, and in some ways original, element. There seems to be one in LA union the vampire hunters – literally a labor union, like the Teamsters. Bud used to be one of them but got kicked out for breaking so many regulations. But his legendary mentor Big John (Snoop Dogg) has the clout to reinstate Bud.
Once you’re in the union, you can sell vampire fangs for a lot more money. But to do that, Bud must agree to go hunting with Seth (Dave Franco), a desk jockey who’s there to make sure he doesn’t break union laws. He’s like the rookie cop assigned to ride with the ruthless veteran of protocol, except in this case the newcomer is a terrified geek who constantly wets his pants.
Jamie Foxx is such a good actor that he brings the benefit of his fast-paced retorts and genre-hero mystique to even a warped product like this. But “Day Shift,” instead of investing more in Bud’s situation, begins to put the human story on the back burner. It gets free-for-all around the time Big John shows up with a circular machine gun, firing rounds with a display of speed and power so punishing it takes a moment after he rips through a roomful of vampires we can see that they should all still be alive since none of them were decapitated. Until then, it’s the film that has lost its head.
https://variety.com/2022/film/reviews/day-shift-review-jamie-foxx-1235338615/ ‘Day Shift’ Review: Jamie Foxx is the Vampire Hunter as Working Stiff