Review: Day Shift Is a Toothless Vampire Action Film

A pool-boy by day hunts vampires, also by day. That doesn’t sound like a particularly inspired concept for a film. And it is not.

Day Shift is a mysterious movie, and not intriguingly so. Watching it, it is impossible to figure out why anyone would want to make it, or what audience the creators thought would be pulled in by this pallid, half-hearted genre exercise. It’s not even bad enough to laugh at. It just sort of sits there staring at you. You stare back and say, “Eh.”

Buffy, but Boring. Also Nonsensical.

Director J.J. Perry seems to have been vaguely inspired by that classic of vampire humor/adventure, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The joke in Buffy though was that high school girls aren’t generally thought of as martial arts action heroes.

In contrast, there aren’t any particular stereotypes about pool boys being physically unimposing. More, Jamie Foxx who stars is an impressively muscled guy and has been the lead in multiple action films. The movie is built on a contrast/joke that isn’t a contrast or a joke. That’s not a promising set-up.

The execution isn’t much better. Bud Jablonski (Foxx) pretends to clean pools in San Fernando Valley while riding around in search of vampires to kill so he can sell their teeth. Those teeth are valuable for reasons which the script doesn’t try to explain.

Anyway. Bud kills vampires for money, but he is struggling because he refuses to follow the vampire-killing rules and so has been drummed out of the union, and is forced to take a lower price for the teeth. Who is the employer for which the union works? That’s another question that drops through one of the numerous plot holes.

Bud is separated from his wife Jocelyn (Meagan Good.) She is threatening to move with their daughter to Florida if Bud can’t come up with 10k for tuition and braces in a few days.

Desperate, Bud begs the union to let him back in. They do, but only if he agrees to let union rep accountant Seth (Dave Franco) follow him around to make sure he’s following all the rules. Meanwhile, realtor/ancient vampire Audrey (Karla Souza) wants revenge on Bud for killing her loved one.

Oh, and Audrey is also hatching a nebulous plot to allow vampires to survive in daylight using suntan lotion. She plans to take over the valley and maybe kill all the humans? That last point, like so much else, is a bit unclear.

No, the Action Sequences Aren’t Much Fun Either

I’ve mentioned some of the gaps in explication, but there are lots more. How does a vampire turn someone else into a vampire? Why are vampires kept secret, and by whom? Can vampires be good, and if so, isn’t murdering them in large numbers a problem?

Day Shift’s world-building is very confused. But that could be forgivable if it wasn’t matched by a parallel confusion in purpose. You don’t get very far into the movie before you start wondering what exactly you’re here to watch.

At times the movie seems like it wants to be a buddy movie with Seth as the hapless goofball to Bud’s dour straight man. Sometimes it gestures at a hard-knock working-class John McClane sweaty scrappy action romp. Sometimes it seems more interested in the mythic potential of Snoop Dogg as Big John Elliott, cowboy vampire hunter with an extremely big gun.

Foxx seems as at sea as the filmmakers; he struggles to give his character a strong, compelling throughline. Hard-guy, rule-breaker, family-loving Bud isn’t an especially distinctive character, and Foxx doesn’t seem inspired to make him one. He only really comes alive in scenes with his daughter Heather, played by Natasha Liu Bordizzo. She at least has charm to spare, but she’s not onscreen enough to carry the whole film.

Since the director’s background is in stunt work, you might think that the film is mostly an excuse for combat choreography, like the recent, very satisfying Joey King vehicle The Princess.

Day Shift does have a lot of action sequences, with vampires contorting themselves through improbable martial arts back-breaking head-over-heels attack flips. As with a lot of recent era Hollywood battle choreography, though, the fights are fast and loud and gravity-defying, but they lack imaginative spark or visual poetry.

The Princess gave each combatant distinctive weaponry and fighting styles; you can see the protagonist figure out plans of attack and think her way around superior, larger, better-armed opponents. Bud just has a lot of firepower. The one trick he uses is so telegraphed, and it’s so his one trick, it ends up feeling anticlimactic and a little unfair.

The movie doesn’t look cheap. It’s got a bona fide star in Foxx, and there are lots of explosions and car chases, and property damage. But it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got to spend if you don’t know what you’re spending it on. Day Shift doesn’t work. Most of the time, it doesn’t even feel like it’s trying.

For a better viewing experience, check out our recommendations for films to watch on Netflix now.

Rating: 3.5/10 SPECS

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Featured Image Credit: Netflix.

Noah Berlatsky is a freelance writer based in Chicago. His book, Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics was published by Rutgers University Press. He thinks the Adam West Batman is the best Batman, darn it.