Netflix ’s Day Shift features some thrilling action scenes and a lot of well-timed humour, but the story often gets caught up in its own needless complexities.
Every now and then, a movie comes along that’s just so bonkers, so unapologetically absurd, that it’s impossible not to wear a smile whilst you’re watching it – and for now, Day Shift is that movie. There’s absolutely nothing about the movie audiences will remember a week from now, but there’s also not much to complain about whilst you’re watching vampire hunter Bud Jablonski (Jamie Foxx) slicing up the undead in the dark of night. It sets the tone from the very first scene, opening with a bloody fight sequence between Jablonski and his latest victim, which has heads rolling on the floor before the title card even plays. From that point forward, all expectations of a realistic, grounded film are thrown out the window and the audience is plunged into the deadly world of vampire hunting.
Day Shift sets up its premise very quickly, and it’s a simple one – Jablonski needs to collect $10,000 in the next week, or his wife and daughter will be forced to relocate to Florida, leaving him and his unconventional lifestyle behind. Naturally, Jablonski turns to the Vampire Hunting Union to find his funds (who wouldn’t?), but his previous breaches of the union’s code mean that he’s going to have to take a supervisor with him on his journey – enter Seth (Dave Franco), a rule-abiding office worker with minimal experience in the field. From there, despite their conflicts, the pair set out to slay some vampires and sell their teeth for riches.
As it’s probably become clear by now, Day Shift makes absolutely no attempts to pretend to be something that it’s not, but rather it revels in its own absurdity and provides the audience with bloody violence and offbeat humour at every turn. That’s not to say that there aren’t emotional stakes (Jablonski’s complicated relationship with his wife and daughter makes for a much-needed break from the exhaustive slaughtering), but it’s hardly ever the film’s main priority. The majority of the runtime is spent with Jablonski and his associates, which includes his union escort Seth and his long-time colleague ‘Big John’ (Snoop Dogg), both of whom make for valuable additions to the cast and contribute a large amount to the film’s mostly tuned sense of humour. They’re used fairly effectively; every time the story begins to slow down a little, one of the film’s many side characters will come along to provide some laughs or pick up the pace a little.
The only area where Day Shift really falls into the unenjoyable territory is in its final act, when the story becomes way too complex and contrived in comparison to the rest of the film. For some unexplained reason, the film decides to swap the lighthearted action for a dark, convoluted story of revenge and family, which doesn’t really fit with the tone that’s already been established. It isn’t necessarily bad, but if this is what the film was building towards, there definitely should’ve been more setup to make it feel less out of the blue, because the entire finale feels completely forced and underwhelming as a result. The main villain, Audrey (Karla Souza), isn’t given nearly enough time to develop throughout the film, so she doesn’t really feel threatening or important by the moment she has the protagonists on the ropes at the end of the film. It’s almost as though there are two stories within Day Shift: the slapstick, mindless action movie that it sets itself up to be, and the more mature family drama that it decides upon by the end. Both are fine, but they can’t exist effectively within the same film.
There’s a very particular audience for Day Shift, and if you’re not it, you probably won’t get much out of this neon-soaked vampire bloodbath. But if you are the kind of person looking to lose yourself in a mindless adventure through undead California, then Day Shift has pretty much everything you could hope for. Its biggest strength is undoubtedly its action sequences, which display a level of creativity and eccentricity that will surprise even the most frequent audiences of this genre. So, in spite of an underwhelming and confusing final act, Day Shift delivers on everything that it promises, with an added dose of style and personality to top it off.