Day Shift draws too much of the same blood type from action movies to stand out, but this vampire flick still manages to entertain on smaller screens in short bursts. Stuntman and martial artist, J.J. Perry (Fast and the Furious series, John Wick, Underworld, Blade) makes his directorial debut with a classic vision. Day Shift does the simple pleasure of kicking vampire ass and taking teeth.
The way Day Shift embraces its carnage of vampires preying on L.A. feels like a surprisingly special change in tone for bloodsucking creatures of the night. Viewers might not notice the vampires being taken out of their element at first, but it’s a respectable effort to add something new post-Twilight. Instead, Day Shift doubles-down on its name. Humans are notably smarter by exploiting a vampire’s weakness, garlic, wood, silver and neck-braces are cleverly mixed into the action. J.J. Perry keeps Day Shift afloat with respect to Bram Stoker’s Dracula throughout.
Vampires manage to find loopholes for surviving in daylight. The film keeps this theme going with some creative sparks. Sunscreen, nesting in preconstruction homes and motorcycle suits allow vampires to prey on humans 24/7. J.J. Perry and the writing team do a wonderful job of reuniting viewers with an overdue vampire showcase. However, this folktale magic fizzles out in a symphony of martial arts and gun-fu. Viewers have already seen more of the same formula out of John Wick, Extraction and Bullet Train.
The action feels kinetic, but never tense. Vampires and humans trade bullets with ragdoll physics. Day Shift keeps viewers’ eyes glued to choreography that impresses on occasion, though some might wish the vampires were more menacing. As Day Shift goes more over-the-top, it can’t top a familiar display of violence.
“J.J. Perry keeps Day Shift afloat with respect to Bram Stoker’s Dracula throughout.”
Bud Jablonski (Jamie Foxx) is one of many freelance vampire hunters keeping L.A. safe. He’s also excommunicado from the Union, a secret guild that kills vampires with some added bureaucracy. Foxx seamlessly flows from an upbeat family man to a calm, efficient slayer. His performance matches Day Shift’s all-nonsense universe and through Bud, viewers get a piece of John Wick’s world-building techniques. While the film could have found heavier storytelling with an origin arc, Day Shift instead hits the ground running on all vampire fours.
Throughout the mayhem and madness on screen, J.J. Perry finds a way to make the vampires grounded in Bud’s world. An opening scene gives viewers an old-fashioned glimpse of Bud on the hunt. He’s down bad with money problems, pawning vampire teeth brings money in quickly, since paychecks are few and far between without union support. To keep his family financially stable, Bud cuts a deal with his former guild along their crusade.
The comedy is devoid of any witty banter as viewers are thrown pee jokes, vampire cliché jabs and money talk. Foxx does find strong chemistry through his facade as a blue-collared pool cleaner. Bud’s interactions with daughter Paige (Zion Broadnax) and estranged wife Jecelyn (Meagan Good) add some heart, but mostly take shape as vampires circle in.
Day Shift takes a while to send Bud’s two lives crashing together, but this delivers a cut-and-dry car chase scene that doesn’t really highlight the vampire threat; it would have been extra appropriate to show vampires taking more bites, sadly we must do without. Surprisingly, the film plays it way too safe with those fatal hickeys in an effort to keep characters busy.
Of course, I won’t dock points for J.J. Perry’s masterful direction with the action-packed fight scenes. Day Shift’s most re-watchable sequence comes from the Nazarian Brothers (played respectively by Steve Howey and Scott Adkins) in a vampire house raid. This punchy fight comes with added help from John Wick director Chad Stahelski. Action aficionados will appreciate the film’s longer takes to let pure choreography breathe.
Day Shift might sing the same song, but it finds a new beat by flowing through other vampire flicks. There are plenty of odes to From Dusk Til Dawn and Training Day through its supporting cast. Bud finds a new apprentice through Seth (Dave Franco), an easily frightened union bookkeeper. Their semi-hostile chemistry adds a bulk of the comedy Day Shift delivers plenty of. J.J. Perry struggles to fully invest in Seth’s character development. Without spoilers, Day Shift goes off the rails with Franco’s character as bodies pile up.
“Day Shift might sing the same song, but it finds a new beat by flowing through other vampire flicks.”
Snoop Dogg takes on another side quest by playing respected vampire hunter Big John Elliott. Snoop’s rare appearances shake things up for viewers just as Day Shift’s own blood supply dries up. For the story, it’s better to bask in Snoop Dogg’s collected badassery against hordes of vampires. The Big D.O. Double G simply does what he wants.
The film’s generic delivery is only matched by a forgettable villain. Audrey San Fernando (Karla Souza) is a vampire real-estate tycoon vying to develop houses for an army. I’ll admit that Day Shift adds some creativity through her evil plan, but the story doesn’t go all-in with this affordable housing scheme for authenticity. Day Shift keeps reserving Souza’s character for the cheesier moments, complete with Audrey San Fernando staging the most predictable final battle viewers will see.
Seemingly normal neighbour Heather (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) only makes a few rare appearances with Bud, but there’s barely any development to be had as she’s tossed into the final battle. Day Shift doesn’t do justice to supporting characters who should have added more authenticity with J.J. Perry’s vampire world, but viewers get more of the same story pieces that bridge one action scene to another. Taking some unneeded pages out of generic action films, Eric Lange is done dirty as union chief Ralph Seeger. He comes as cranky and by-the-book as they come.
Viewers shouldn’t have to ask too many questions out of a fun Netflix film. It’s a film best enjoyed as any other mid-2000s CGI vampire flick (Van Helsing, Ultraviolet, Blade). J.J. Perry uses some vintage iconography to evoke that possibility of vampires living among us. Of course, Day Shift takes a contemporary spin through its lighter setting. Every vampire pun intended. The film tosses small, serviceable story grains which bounce off viewers, while a hefty serving of fine-tuned vampire fights are worth the in-betweens.