Jamie Foxx’s Vampire-Slaying Pool Cleaner Is a Cry for Help

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It’s easy to imagine first-time director JJ Perry and screenwriters Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten in the pitch meeting for day shiftsell it as a Deadly Weapon riff with hungry vampires and John Wick ultra-violence. All of which is to say there’s absolutely nothing new about this Netflix B-movie (August 12), whose lack of originality is only overshadowed by its failure to inject even a fleeting dose of humor into its wannabe comedy horror carnage.

Headlined by Jamie Foxx, stuck here in one-note badass mode, day shift is set in a Los Angeles populated by both the living and the undead, though the former – despite knowledge about vampires, as evidenced by references to the Twilight franchise – are totally unaware that the latter are in their midst. Regardless of that ignorance, leeches lurk practically everywhere, nesting in abandoned bowling alleys and malls, and even roaming around during the day courtesy of Audrey (Karla Souza). Audrey, a star real estate agent in San Fernando Valley and a longtime uber vamp, buys up the area’s properties to populate them with her minions, who also provide her with a powerful lotion that helps them survive in the blazing sun. Unfortunately, what goes into this protective balm is a mystery never revealed by the film, regardless of the fact that the whole story ostensibly hinges on its application.

Such sketchiness of scenarios is an essential part of this joyless affair, whose primary focus is on Bud Jablonski (Foxx), an LA native who is introduced to clean a filthy residential pool. When his work is done, Bud reveals his true identity as a secret vampire slayer on the hunt for new prey. He finds that in an older monster living in a nondescript house, resulting in the first of many lengthy battles with Bud’s trusty shotgun and pistol, plenty of highly choreographed hand-to-hand combat, and a slew of limb-cracking, spine-breaking maneuvers by the supernatural opponent of Bud. Director Perry stages this chaos with clarity and muscularity as minimal verve; the whole thing comes across as a third-generation photocopy of multiple things Keanu Reeves and Wesley Snipes have done before, all mixed up in a futile attempt to mask the derivative of the spectacle.

Bud makes a living selling the fangs of his nighttime targets, which go for a nice price on the black market – personified by pawn shop owner Troy (Peter Stormare) – and a lot more money through the Union, an official outfit that covers the murder of vampires. The problem is, Bud has been kicked out of the organization for persistent code violations. He is, in no uncertain terms, the type of rebellious crime fighter who refuses to play by the rules. Would you believe that he is eventually allowed back into the Union with the help of his friend Big John (Snoop Dogg), where he is scolded for his usual disobedience by a chief (Eric Lange) sitting behind a large desk? And that he’s linked to a wimpy bureaucrat, Seth (Dave Franco), who’s been tasked with keeping an eye on him (to kick him out of the Union for good), but eventually transforms from narcotic to unwilling partner to BFF?

Stop me if you’ve seen this a thousand times before in slightly different clothes. day shift blends with glee, from Big John’s cowboy outfit (including an Eastwoodian cigar) to the mix of hip-hop and country on the soundtrack. There is no real rhyme or reason for this mixing and matching; Perry just throws what seems cool onto the screen, hoping to skip an entertaining spark. He rarely does. day shift proceeds in a haphazard fashion, marked by the film in which the criminally underutilized Stormare – a human cartoon if there ever was one – covets Bud’s gun as if it were a legendary weapon, then forgets to explain what makes it so special and drop the issue altogether. Audrey’s wafer-thin plan inspires similar trepidation, as it’s never clear why she needs to buy suburban houses for a vampire takeover, when the undead can just slaughter their inhabitants and seize them at will.

day shift cares more about generating excitement than dotting every “I” and crossing every “T”, but his Swiss cheese plotter doesn’t do it any favors. The characterizations aren’t much better. Bud’s biggest dilemma is that his estranged wife Jocelyn (Meagan Good) is moving to Florida in a week with his beloved daughter Paige (Zion Broadnax) if he doesn’t get $10,000 in childcare costs. Execute as many vampires as you can while taking care of poo-pigeon Seth at the same time. Unfortunately, this situation doesn’t match Bud’s status as an unparalleled and prolific killing machine, nor with his unassailable stubbornness, which Foxx transmits through big stares, bigger smiles and lots of slow-mo-strutting. He is the alpha of all alphas, and therefore just as monotonous as his polar opposite Seth, a nagging nerd who turns up to stalk creatures in a boring suit and pees his pants at every sign of danger – a running gag symbolic of the acumen of the procedure.

He is the alpha of all alphas, and therefore just as monotonous as his polar opposite Seth, a nagging nerd who turns up to stalk creatures in a boring suit and pees his pants at every sign of danger – a running gag symbolic of the acumen of the procedure.

A gun-fu rehash that’s also a black and white buddy comedy sprinkled with a splash Sheet, day shift operates in a comic book-like realm where nothing matters and even less deserves attention. The balance between brutality and jesting is consistently off; the film aims to wow its audience with inventive showdowns and yet it undermines the impact of its gory violence with cornball cartoonishness, such as in a scene where Bud and Seth are paired with two brothers (Steve Howey and Scott Adkins) who, Besides being adept at their Van Helsing-inspired profession, they like to share each other’s chewing gum. I don’t know why that should be funny. I know, though, it’s depressing to see talented actors like this — including Adkins, one of the action genre’s under-recognized talents — wasted by material that doesn’t know which way it’s going at any moment and every clichéd bump on the road to a predictably empty finale.

Whether it takes place on a shadowy midnight or a brilliant afternoon, day shift strives for cruel irreverence and comes with only mediocre familiarity. It’s exhausting in ways the filmmakers certainly didn’t intend, but the villains would be proud of.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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