Review: Jamie Foxx Vampire Saga Day Shift Features Solid Action Worthy of a Big Screen

My entry point, not just into horror films but movies in general, was vampires, specifically Dracula movies. So I’m always a bit more interested in a scary movie when vampires are involved. In recent years, I’ve also become quite fond of movies directed by people who were former stunt performers or coordinators; they don’t always work, but then along come movies like the John Wick series or Deadpool 2 or Nobody. Now imagine my glee when I heard about Day Shift, a film about modern-day vampire hunter Bud Jablonski (Jamie Foxx), who’s trying to kill enough vamps and collect their teeth for money so he can save his family. It’s helmed by first-time director J.J. Perry, who was a stuntman and/or stunt coordinator on everything from Three Kings, Iron Man and Haywire to the first two John Wick movies and F9: The Fast Saga. Not surprisingly, the film has spectacular, mostly practical fight and chase scenes as Jablonski battles these skilled bloodsuckers while also trying to protect a new partner, officer worker Seth (Dave Franco in full nerd mode).

Written by Shay Hatten and Tyler Tice, the backstory of Day Shift is a bit convoluted. Jablonski is a freelance hunter who is one of the most skilled in the San Fernando Valley. He pretends he’s a pool cleaner so he can spy on houses he suspects are places where vampires are hiding during the day. Because he’s been kicked out of the vampire hunters union, he has to accept unregulated rates for the teeth he collects (I don’t think it’s ever explained why the teeth are so valuable) from dealers like his friend Troy (Peter Stormare). When he discovers that his ex-wife Jocelyn (Meagan Good) is considering selling their home and moving to Florida with their young daughter Paige (Zion Broadnax), they strike an agreement that if he can pull the money together to continue paying for her private school, they’ll stay in town. But he only has a week, and the only way he can earn that much money in such a short time is to find a way to get back in the union that kicked him out for flagrantly disobeying their rules of hunting.

After getting one of his fellow hunters, Big John Elliott (Snoop Dogg) to vouch for him being a changed man, Jablonski is allowed back in on a probational basis and only if he agrees to go on hunts with a union rep (Franco) with him at all times. The union wants to see him fail, so they can kick him out once and for all, and sending the by-the-book Seth with Jablonski guarantees he won’t make it past the first day. Foxx and Franco are actually a very funny team, and watching Franco find a way to both cower in fear while still fighting off vampires is amusing without being annoying. As mentioned, the hunts and fight scenes, including one in a bowling alley and another in a house populated by seemingly dozens of vampires in a nest, are pretty spectacular, very graphic (lots of vampire beheadings in this one), and high energy.

As if vampires in general weren’t enough, Day Shift also has a fairly disposable villain in a high-ranking vamp named Audrey San Fernando (Karla Souza), who is out to get revenge on Jablonski for killing her maker in the opening scene of the film by kidnapping Jablonski’s ex-wife and child so she can kill Jocelyn in front of Piage before turning Paige into a vampire. She ain’t right. I honestly don’t remember much about the severely underwritten Audrey character except that she threatens to do a lot of damage without actually following through much of the time. The real enemy in Day Shift is bureaucracy; even the important work of curbing the vampire problem in the Valley isn’t enough to keep rules from being established and hunters being limited in what they can do. I suppose a parallel can be made between the hunters and police officers, but the film isn’t bold enough to explicitly pull those two threads together.

Even still, the movie isn’t afraid to be a little inappropriate with its wholesale slaughter of vampires, and there are even a few very unexpected surprises along the way (mostly involving Seth) that kick things up and sideways more than I thought it might. The subplots involving the family and the Audrey character are mostly distracting, but when the film sticks to the bloody business of vampire hunting, I was fully onboard. This one certainly seems like it has potential to get a sequel, but even if that doesn’t happen, I like the combination of Foxx and Franco enough to see them do something together again. I’ll end by saying that much like last week’s Prey, I think Day Shift would have gone over like gangbusters in front of an actual theater audience, and I wish I’d gotten to see it that way. But as it is, it’s still mostly good.

The film is now streaming on Netflix.

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Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.

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