Day Shift Review: Jamie Foxx Hunts Vampires In This Action-Heavy Horror-Comedy

It's not easy being a vampire hunter. Bud Jablonski (Jamie Foxx) drives around in a run-down truck posing as a pool cleaner — but that's all a front for his battle against the blood-sucking undead. Yes, in "Day Shift," the new Netflix horror-comedy from director J. J. Perry, vampires are very real, and apparently all over Los Angeles — although only a select few know the truth. Bud is quite skilled at killing vamps, as we see in a brutal, bloody, funny opening scene in which he tussles with an elderly nosferatu who may look like a sweet old lady, but is in fact an acrobatic ass-kicker from beyond the grave. 

Bud doesn't do what he does out of some noble pursuit to rid the world of vampires. No, he's just trying to make a living — because there's an entire underground market built up around the world of vampires and vampire hunters. In the world of "Day Shift," vampire fangs are worth serious money and Bud yanks the chompers from his kills and sells them for cash. Unfortunately, he has to use black markets for this. There's a more legitimate market for vamp fangs run by an outfit known as the Union, but Bud was kicked out of the org for being too much of a loose cannon. Now he's working for himself, and apparently struggling. His wife Jocelyn (Meagan Good) has left him, and he's planning to sell the house and take Bud's daughter Paige (Zion Broadnax) to Florida. Bud is given an ultimatum: if he can come up with cash for both his daughter's school tuition and braces, Jocelyn will reconsider moving. 

This is a solid, fun set-up — a working-class vampire hunter trying to make ends meet! On top of that, "Day Shift" has some clever worldbuilding when it comes to vampires and their hunters. Some of it is clumsily spelled out in clunky exposition, while other elements are only hinted at. We learn there are different classes of vampires, and they all do different things. We also learn that there are higher-up vampires who run drug cartels and have big, evil plans. Like Audrey (Karla Souza), a vicious vamp who has plans to take over the San Fernando Valley ... somehow. She's ruthless, and unfortunately, Bud gets on her bad side — which means he and his family (who have no idea he hunts vampires, or that vampires even exist) are in danger. 

Action, action, action

To help solve his money problems, Bud turns to his old pal, master vampire hunter Big John (Snopp Dogg, having a lot of fun playing the most badass character in the movie), to get back into the Union. Bud is given a chance to prove himself a changed man — if he can survive a week being overseen by a Union rep, he'll be allowed back in, and can start making serious money again. Unfortunately for Bud, the Union rep happens to be the nerdy, nervous, overly chatty Seth (Dave Franco), who is absolutely not suited for the dangerous field work Bud drags him to. 

Again: all of this is solid, in theory. I quite enjoyed the hierarchy and hints of politics that go on in the vampire/hunter world. But "Day Shift" doesn't spend enough time on any of this, and instead relies heavily on unfunny quips and a rushed script. Audrey's plot is maddeningly vague (and it doesn't help that Souza's performance is unconvincing), as is a subplot involving one of Bud's neighbors, Heather (Natasha Liu Bordizzo, who gets to kick some butt but is still ill-served by an underwritten part). Franco's fish-out-of-water character is consistently annoying, to the point where he starts to hurt the film. And it doesn't make much sense for Bud to be so relentlessly cruel to Seth at every turn as he is here, since Seth is the guy evaluating him and his only chance at getting back in the Union. 

Where "Day Shift" succeeds, however, is in its action. The vampire gore is suitably gooey, but the movie itself is never scary (nor is it as funny as it seems to think it is). But when it comes time for Bud to take on some vampires, Perry delivers. The filmmaker has a 30-plus-year career as a stuntman and second unit director, and he's taken his knowledge of action scenes and created a wealth of fist-pumping moments. Best of all: for the majority of the time you can actually see the action — it's not rendered ineffective by quick cuts and needless close-ups. The vampires are incredibly limber and flexible, which means they're constantly flipping and twirling all over the place while Bud fires his guns (which are loaded with wooden bullets, of course) in their direction. 

Something missing

Netflix originals have been rather dire lately, especially when it comes to action (I'm looking at you "The Gray Man," and "Extraction," and — well, you get the idea). The fact that the action in "Day Shift" is both competent and exciting might be enough to quench your thirst. Foxx is also a draw here, turning in a loose, amusing performance as Bud. I would've liked a little more insight into Bud's character, and how he started doing what he does, but the film sadly has no interest in that. It renders Foxx's Bud a little one-dimensional, but the actor is charming enough to make it (mostly) work. 

As far as Netflix movies go, "Day Shift" is inoffensive enough for your viewing pleasure. But I wanted more. I wanted more of the vampire/hunter world-building. More of the vampire physiology and how it all works, and more of how the Union came together (amusingly, there's a portrait of Abraham Lincoln in the Union offices, which is likely a call-back to the mostly forgotten "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"). And I certainly wanted more details about evil Audrey's plan, which seems to have fallen victim to some excessive editing in order to get to the action scenes faster. I'm not saying I needed more things spelled out for me — it just would've been neat to have more meat on this bone. 

I guess the streamer is hoping to save all that extra stuff for a sequel — these days, you can't just unleash one Netflix movie, you have to have a franchise! It's the kind of clueless decision that hurts what could've otherwise been a far more successful movie. Still, if you want to watch Jamie Foxx kill a bunch of limber vampires, look no further.

/Film Rating: 5 out of 10