The vampire genre has survived innumerable indignities over the decades — Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter or Dracula 2000, anyone? — so it surely will emerge largely intact after the abuse it must now endure courtesy of Day Shift. The premise isn’t half-bad, with a leading-man vampire hunter trying to provide for the his wife and young daughter, and the presence of Jamie Foxx and Snoop Dogg in leading roles provides some allure, amusement and cache. But the script never remotely rises to the occasion, resulting in a hodge-podgy mess that, at nearly two hours, is also a half-hour too long for its own, or anyone else’s, good.
The setting — the dregs of the San Fernando Valley — scarcely seems less like prime vampire real estate compared to Transylvania, but that’s where a man with the unlikely name of Bud Jablonski (Foxx) ekes out a living cleaning swimming pools. Envisioning no upswings in husband’s financial future, his wife Jocelyn (Meagan Good) announces her intention to move to Florida, with their young daughter in tow, unless Bud comes up with some real money ($7,000 is her figure) within a few days.
Bud doesn’t even have half that amount. Almost at once, however, the presence of zombies/undeads/vampires/what-have-you make themselves known, and in a highly concocted manner, Bud sees that a secret and, he believes, temporary return to his old vampire-hunting ways represents the only way to keep his family intact.
One requirement issued by the cockamamie script is that Bud be accompanied at all times by a minder, Seth (Dave Franco), an entirely un-streetwise and mostly unfunny doofus who is continually apologizing for his thoroughgoing doofusness. With the scriptwriters seemingly just making stuff up while they go along without benefit of rewriting, the film flails in one direction and, moments later, flops in another, gestures that seem designed far more toward keeping wild and often incomprehensible action happening onscreen than in making any dramatic sense. A few more passes at the script could only have been helpful.
A vampire eminence eventually emerges in the form of Audrey (Karla Souza), prompting some action that becomes increasingly hectic and, ultimately, exhausting; the adversaries keep at one another until, at least from a viewer perspective, something’s got to give. As it’s no surprise how matters ultimately will end up, shorter and tighter would have been far more advisable than longer and drawn out.
Dramatically, this is too bad, as first-time director J.J. Perry looks to have given this opportunity everything he’s got action-wise. Perry long has been one of the busiest and most accomplished fight choreographers/stunt coordinators/second unit directors in the business; the Fast and Furious and John Wick series are merely among the most recent of his couple of decades of credits. On the basis of the evidence here, it’s clear that Perry certainly knows how to shoot heavy-duty action. Unfortunately, there’s precious little sense or coherence to the storytelling (the script is by Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten, veterans of multiple John Wick and Army of the Dead/Army of Thieves installments), so it remains to be seen what Perry could do with better constructed and more engaging material.
Day Shift starts streaming Friday exclusively on Netflix.
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