We’ve seemingly entered the twilight of vampire cinema, with a long list of bloodsucker-filled bombs failing to sink their teeth into the box office in recent years. Even a Marvel-adjacent movie like Morbius struggled in theaters, suggesting that mainstream audiences have finally had their fill of vampires — sexy, superhero, or otherwise.
And although there are some entertaining elements in Day Shift, Netflix’s vampire-themed action-comedy starring Jamie Foxx, the film ultimately feels like another nail in the coffin for the struggling genre.
The directorial debut of accomplished stunt coordinator J.J. Perry (Iron Man, The Rundown), Day Shift casts Foxx as a California pool cleaner whose mundane job is actually cover for a more lucrative gig: Hunting vampires. Struggling to make ends meet and provide for his young daughter, Bud Jablonski (Foxx) sets out to rejoin the vampire-hunters’ union in order to score higher-paying jobs, but soon finds himself being hunted by an ambitious, powerful vampire with a vendetta.
Day Shift surrounds Foxx with a talented cast. Neighbors and The Disaster Artist actor Dave Franco anchors the film’s humor as a bumbling union rep tasked with supervising Jablonski’s work, while Snoop Dogg delivers a standout performance as “Big” John Elliott, a legendary vampire hunter and Jablonski’s lone ally in the union. On the other side, How to Get Away With Murder actress Karla Souza portrays cruel, calculating vampire Audrey San Fernando, and throws herself into all of the fang-bearing and evil posturing for a fun — if not uniquely memorable — villain.
Foxx holds up his end of the film, too. The Django Unchained actor is no stranger to action roles, and with Perry’s stunt-work pedigree, Day Shift demands a lot of him physically, as well as of the rest of the film’s cast. Although his character never quite develops beyond the typical, hard-luck hero we’ve seen countless times over, Foxx is always fun to watch, and has decent chemistry with Franco’s character, who plays the naïve company man to Foxx’s street-smart, blue-collar hunter.
Even plenty of good (but not great) performances aren’t enough to keep Day Shift‘s head above water, though.
Time and time again, the film sinks under the weight of how familiar — and at times, frustratingly shallow — it feels. From its predictable story and recycled characters, to its willingness to ignore the rules it established for its world of supernatural creatures, Day Shift often feels more like an action sizzle reel than a fully fleshed-out film. As the former, it’s impressive — thanks to Perry’s eye for stunt work — but as the latter, it never makes much of a case for caring about the characters or their stories.
Sadly, that’s the most frustrating issue with Day Shift: Beneath the cool action sequences, California in-jokes, just-okay acting, and convoluted vampire lore is a film that’s disappointingly empty.
There’s little in Day Shift that hasn’t been seen in prior vampire films, whether it’s the bloodsuckers who appear to gain a knack for martial arts and/or contortionist skills when they’re turned, the lead villain’s human-enslaving, day-walking motivation, or the characters themselves, which all feel borrowed from other vampire films. A pastiche of the vampire genre, Day Shift essentially takes pieces of other films and tries to glue them all together with its leads’ charisma and some slick action sequences.
But even Foxx and Franco’s performances — and that of Snoop Dogg, who might be the film’s most entertaining character — aren’t enough to make Day Shift stand out from the crowd. Instead of suggesting there’s still more life in the vampire genre, the message it relays is that we’ve seen all there is to see with vampire cinema, and all that’s left is to rearrange old material in new ways.
Whether that’s actually true remains to be determined, but anyone hoping to find something new and fresh in Day Shift should temper their expectations. Although the film contains a few entertaining elements that prevent it from hitting bottom, the lack of originality and innovation leave it feeling like a vampire movie with potential, but without much bite.
Directed by J.J. Perry and starring Jamie Foxx, Day Shift premieres August 11 on Netflix.
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