Clichés aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They wouldn’t be clichés if they were, right? With proper implementation, they can serve as a fun reference tool, operate as a kind of throwback in genre storytelling, or even potentially be used to subvert their own original intention. It’s when filmmakers start stacking clichés that they truly become problematic. Even the most clever concept and exciting stylistic tendencies can be drowned out with a tower of tropes that renders the story dull, lazy, and exhausting to watch unfold.
That in mind, director JJ Perry’s Day Shift is a movie that feels like it was scripted by a computer. The words and phrases “buddy cops,” “vampires,” “Los Angeles,” and “John Wick-esque action” were all dumped into a machine, and this screenplay is what was spit out. It’s a generic mess in its execution from opening to close, and only made more baffling by the fact that it stumbles on to interesting ideas, but then clearly has no clue what to do with them (leaving them to be abandoned and never developed past their introduction).
Jamie Foxx stars as Bud Jabolonski, who is not just a vampire hunter, but a rogue vampire hunter – one who has been kicked out of the local union of vampire hunters for being a big bad rule-breaker. Of course, he’s also a caring father for his darling daughter, Paige, (Zion Broadnax), but he is divorced from her mother, Jocelyn (Megan Good), who, for some unexplainable reason, isn’t aware of what Bud does for a living, and instead thinks that he is a pool cleaner.
While taking Paige home one day, Bud gets the bombshell dropped on him that Jocelyn can no longer afford Paige’s private school tuition, which is due in one week, and that she and their daughter are going to up and move to Florida as a result. Needing to make a quick $5,000, Bud has no choice but to rejoin the union so that he can sell vampire teeth – the trophies for every kill – at a fair market value. The catch is that the rebellious, lone wolf protagonist has to be partnered with an evaluator for a one-week probationary period, and naturally, he is assigned Seth (Dave Franco), a bespectacled, mealy-mouthed introvert who doesn’t believe in guns and can recite every union rule by memory.
As Bud and Seth are assigned to cover the day shift – hence the movie’s title – they are unknowingly hunted. By completely random chance, Bud manages to piss off one of the most powerful vampires in the world (Karla Souza), and when she goes searching for him, she also discovers his family.
Day Shift wants to be John Wick-ian in its world building, but can’t pull it off.
Day Shift is the latest movie from production house 87Eleven Entertainment, and it shows through the fact that it seems utterly desperate to be discussed in the same conversations as John Wick. It tries incredibly hard to execute world-building alongside the heavily choreographed action, but it’s all just window dressing that adds nothing meaningful or interesting to the work. The template for the union is just “police station,” and none of the various rules and violations highlighted hold any significance.
It can’t even properly use the background for efficient and subtle exposition – instead opting for sequences like one where Bud and Seth sit in a car and the former has the latter tell him about the various species of vampires (apparently there are five, but I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between any of them watching the film). Day Shift tries to impress its audience by having characters drop bits of in-world trivia or lore in dialogue, suggesting that what we’re seeing in the movie is only the surface of what’s going on… but that is far more problematic than impressive because it effectively exposes how shallow the whole effort is.
The action in Day Shift is inconsistent and more “cool” than fun.
One would hope that the generic blandness of the plotting in Day Shift could at the very least be boosted by the film’s action, but it even struggles in that department. The combat itself is neat and clearly performed by talented experts, but on a macro scale, there isn’t any flow between sequences. More often than not, the big fights feel forced and inorganic, like the filmmakers are petrified of allowing more than a few scenes to go by between decapitations and shotgun blasts. There is a whole 10-minute battle in the second act featuring Bud, Seth, and a couple of other vampire hunters (Steve Howey, Scott Adkins) stuck in a nest that could be wholly removed from the film without any issue.
Helping absolutely nothing is the fact that there is zero consistency in fighting and killing vampires. In the movie’s opening scene, Bud has to fire dozens upon dozens of specialized shotgun shells into a vampire before finally taking her down… but in the nest sequence I just mentioned, the final two vampires are respectively taken down with a strong crack to the head and by blasting off one of its feet. There aren’t any stakes (in both senses of the word, actually), and action scenes basically just end when the movie decides that enough is enough.
Don’t get invested in Day Shift’s most interesting ideas, because the movie has no idea what to do with them.
The inconsistency in killing vampires is actually one of many half-baked ideas that are introduced by Day Shift, but nothing ever happens with them. This is a movie that has its characters fighting vampires during the day and has characters discuss the existence of powerful sunscreen that lets the monsters temporarily exist in open sunlight – and yet every single fight sequence is indoors with pulled shades/blinds/curtains. And not only are the “different” species of vampire indistinguishable, there is a bit where Seth has a confused moment about them cohabitating, and it goes exactly nowhere.
It should probably go without saying, but this is also not a movie that succeeds at doing anything allegorical with its villainous bloodsuckers, but what’s actually befuddling is the fact that there are shades of an abandoned/undeveloped idea in the mix. The central antagonist is introduced as a realtor with a plot that hopes to see vampires infiltrate Los Angeles within the safety of the real estate market, and there is a point in the film when you wonder if it’s trying to say something bigger about the modern urban housing crisis. But then the movie keeps going, and… no.
There is some solid stunt work, and the basic idea of a colorful and sunshine-filled vampire movie is cute, but Day Shift is grimace-inducing in its execution. It’s lazy, scattered, and inconsistent, and fails to be entertaining in anyway as a result.