The career of Jaime Foxx remains an enigma unto itself. On one hand, the actor, musician and comedian has conquered every medium. An Oscar winner, a Grammy winner, and one of the most versatile performers of a generation, Foxx exudes charisma regardless of his role. Yet despite his talent, many of his projects fail to give him the material he deserves. His latest film, Day Shift, provides him a starring role in a vampire flick. Foxx plays well of his co-stars, namely Dave Franco. However, the films penchant for mediocre one-liners undercuts the violent action on screen, while not being funny enough to justify the comedic asides.
A seasoned vampire hunter, Bud (Foxx) finds himself running out of time. Kicked out of a vampire hunting union, he struggles to make good money for his hunting activities. When his ex-wife (Megan Goode) informs Bud she may sell their old house and move to Florida with their daughter, Bud finds himself running out of time. After calling in favors to get back into the Union, he finds himself baby sitting a Union Rep (Dave Franco). At the same time, a vampire leader (Karla Souza) hunts him down for killing her lover.
Directed by former stunt coordinator J.J Perry, the film excels when showing its action choreography. The visual design of the vampires stands out, with the creatures displaying extreme flexibility and cat-like reflexes. One could confuse the creatures for the 28 Days Later zombies without much trouble. This allows Perry to put the fight choreography front and center.
Perry’s action does find itself undermined by the visual comedy on occasion. For every kill worthy of praise, we find ourselves pulled out of the action by focusing on the wildly incompetent character Franco portrays. It’s one thing to frame his as a newbie to the field, but it’s another to make him a character worthy of ridicule. Franco’s comedic prowess makes it possible to still enjoy the film, but if Day Shift was not so interested in framing him as a joke, the film would feel more substantial.
Where Day Shift struggles most is creating a vampire hunting culture. While the idea of a Union and a guild overseeing the vampire hunters makes sense, the way they exist feels distinctly anti-Union. Every aspect of the film seems to be postured as anti-bureaucracy, instead using its world building as a restriction on Bud. However, doing so lowers the stakes. It makes vampire hunting seem so commonplace, and frankly less dangerous, than pop culture has framed it. The rules laid down are so restrictive, it actually seems impossible to adhere to them within the job. To say it’s odd that a vampire hunting film is anti-Union would be an understatement.
Finally, the film never commits fully to Foxx as the reason we’re doing tuning into the film. While he undeniably gets the bulk of the narrative, the film feels uncomfortable with that admission. Rather than allowing sequences to be built around his star persona, Day Shift tries to establish Los Angeles as an integral part of the story. This overcorrection from Netflix, who often fail to provide any distinguishing details to their films settings, results in an embarrassing soundtrack. The film rolls through the most popular and basic hip-hop tracks of the early nineties, seemingly because the lead actor is a person of color. Other than Snoop Dogg playing a role within the film, there seems to be no relation to that culture or history. It’s an odd choice, that again distracts from Foxx being a badass vampire hunter.
Not funny enough to be considered a full comedy, but not violent enough to earn horror credentials, Day Shift feels like an algorithmic miss. This tweener film will satisfy an itch, but does little to endure beyond your initial viewing. While Foxx could certainly make more of these, and Perry showcases talent for directing visual fight sequences, story choices and ideas drag us down. It’s a real shame, because a full blown genre flick would have been a welcome arrival this weekend. Instead, we’re left with a film that seems destined to obscurity behind the Netflix algorithm.