Day Shift

Day Shift
Day Shift
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When you consider the term “vampire-hunter,” who comes to mind first? Van Helsing, Blade, Buffy, or… Abraham Lincoln. This most recent Netflix original aspires to add a Los Angeles pool cleaner to that list; while it’s not going to make Bram Stoker spin in his grave, it is a nice enough entry into the garlic-and-wooden-stakes canon. We are exploring the Day Shift movie here.

It seems that instead of trying to mimic blood-sucking classics, Day Shift’s elevator pitch was: “Men In Black, but with vampires.” This action-comedy is very much in the vein of Barry Sonnenfeld’s 1997 sci-fi — secret bureaucratic society policing fantasy creatures; wisecracking tone with effects-heavy action; rookie-versus-old-timer buddy dynamic.

Here we have Jamie Foxx in the Tommy Lee Jones role as Bud, an experienced old hand who doesn’t always play by the rules. He’s basically a working stiff given a deadline by his ex-wife: three days to make ten grand for tuition and dental braces, or she and their daughter move to Florida. As vampire fangs are his bread and butter he has no choice but to go straight, teaming up with Dave Franco’s squeamishly uptight pescatarian desk jockey Seth. It’s hardly a dynamic we haven’t seen before — something even the filmmakers realise, making a sly nod to Foxx’s previous buddy-movie experience on Miami Vice — but the two actors at least share an easy chemistry. If few of the jokes land especially hard — this isn’t exactly a comedy to ROFL at — at least we’re watching actors who are comfortingly charismatic.

Where it excels though is in its action. Day Shift marks the directorial debut of J.J.Perry, the latest 87eleven stuntman to cross over into directing, and his background in wire work (not as salacious as it sounds) and practical effects pays dividends here, the film teeming with kinetic camerawork, acrobatic stunts and inventive kills. It opens with a physics-defying fight with a sweet old lady who turns out to be an important demon, and keeps up the pace — one fight achieves Arnold Schwarzenegger’s long-held dream for Commando of ripping a man’s arm off and then beating him to death with it. Another sees a ludicrously elaborate gun-reload sequence, deftly executed by Sutton Coldfield’s finest, Scott Adkins. Also at one point Snoop Dogg shows up dressed as a cowboy, firing a chain gun named ‘Big Bertha’ — all while smoking a massive doobie.

It is much guilty pleasure fun. And while the script can’t quite compete with the action on screen, it does at least manage to pepper in some worldbuilding — there are apparently five species of vampires: Southern, Easter, Spider, Uber and Juvenile; all served by human Familiars — there are also some ingenious weaponry with which to fight them (garlic grenades anyone?). Sometimes the filmmaking can feel first-base (the opening sequence introducing California’s San Fernando Valley features palm trees and oversaturated skies set to 2Pac’s ‘California Love’ — about as obvious as choices come). But when it pops, Day Shift has got some sharp teeth on it.

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