DAY SHIFT Review: A Vampire Flick For Action And Stunt Enthusiasts
Jamie Foxx is Bud Jablonski, a hard-working, blue-collar dad spending their days at their run-of-the-mill pool cleaning job in the California sun. This is not your normal pool cleaning job though. Truth is, it is a front for their real job: hunting and killing vampires.
As good as Bud is at their job the pay is just not as good as when they were a part of the vampire hunting union, which they handedly had a part in their expulsion from. With the surprise news that Bud's estranged wife, Jocelyn, wants to sell the house and move their daughter over to Florida to live with Jocelyn’s mom, Bud needs a smack of cash quick to pay some big bills so they will stay in California.
This means they have to go back to the union and get some higher paying union jobs. This also means they now have to have a union rep, Seth, tag along and make sure they don’t break any of their rules or they’re back out on their own. How could matters get any worse? Bud is put on the lean Day Shift, where a vampire’s love of the sunshine is obviously a factor.
Ah, there’s also our villain, Audrey San Fernando. They’re a local real estate magnat and high ranking vampire with a plan to boost the vampire population in the San Fernando Valley. Bud’s just done something that got their attention and if Audrey has anything to say about it there will be a reckoning: blood for blood.
Day Shift is the debut feature film of JJ Perry, a stunt veteran with 35 years of experience in Hollywood. After all those years taking the fall for Hollywood’s best it’s time to rest those bones and make this his first effort calling the shots behind the camera. Perry directs a screenplay that was written by veteran writer Shay Hatten whose credits include John Wick 3 and 4, Army of the Dead, Army of Thieves, and Rebel Moon. Hatten wrote Day Shift with first timer Tyler Tice. With the type of filmography that Hatten has you can already begin to understand what kind of movie you’re in store for when watching Day Shift. Big moments with a bare amount of information in between the set pieces to keep things moving towards a bigger finish.
Everyone on screen does well with the material given to them. Foxx is as good as you would expect them to be. Their ‘Oh now I’m mad’ moments drew snickers but they handles the action and the large set pieces very well. David Franco’s Seth is meant to be the comic relief in this film and if the material were good enough for his comedic chops it would be worth more than a mention. Snoop Dogg is… not an actor, so there’s a certain amount of lenience that you give the hip-hop legend as they go through the motions in some of the scenes.
There is an issue with the villain, Audrey San Fernando, played by Karla Souza. Audrey is just not villainy enough. Their plan for the takeover equates to little more than vampire gentrification, which is funnier than the comedy elements in the film. Minor incidents in the first half are meant to establish their badness but these are really lightweight. Anyone who plays a villain deserves better than this.
Scott Adkins and Steve Howey make an appearance as the Nazarian brothers, high rollers in the vampire killing business. They inspire awe in Seth and in their scene do an insurmountable amount of damage to a nest of vampires in one of the main set pieces. Of course, there is never enough Scott Adkins to our liking but his name is not at the top of the bill. It was good to see them, and see them slaying vampires willy nilly.
So where did Day Shift win for us? We were won over by the action set pieces. We want to give a slow clap to Perry and the stunt team: stunt coordinators Troy Robinson and Justin Yu, fight coordinators Felix Betancourt and Michael Lehr, and we wish we knew who to directly credit for the awesome driving scene midway through the flick. Was it any of the aforementioned coordinators? Then good stuff, everyone!
Off the hop, credit is due for taking contortionists beyond the typical backbends you see in most horror films. Oh they’re there, but the coordinators utilize these skills to create some back breaking moments that would leave any mere mortal dead from the neck down. They found out how far everyone could bend and created moves, hits and slams that exploited that range of motion to its fullest.
Few rigging teams have done this much work, for an unbelievable amount of rigging stunts. There are so many (SO MANY!) people flying through the air after getting shot, changing direction midway through an arc because of a second impact, and more ratchet pulls and dead man stunts from rigger Pat Romano and team than we care to count. Oh, the poor effects team that had to digitally remove the webs and webs of rigging wires.
There is some really wild use of drones in this one as well. Look for the drone that starts inside the car and rises up through the sunroof to follow the car chase. We believe that credit is due to Tommy Tibajia, a professional fpv drone pilot for all this amazing work. They captured some amazing transitions that you could never do before with standard rigs and arms. It is nothing as dizzying as the work we saw in Michael Bay’s Ambulance, you don’t get the vertigo inducing effect. It’s drone camera work done very well, traversing a greater distance in less time and we become more immersed in the scene as it plays out.
A game of one upmanship between stunt performers turned directors is afoot! In the same way that Sam Hargrave elevated action cinema with their hands-on work in Extraction, Perry has taken the tools that have always been there and pushed them further.
We will not say that this is a breakout moment for Perry like Extraction was for Hargrave. We largely think that the paint by numbers story and a lackluster villain do nothing to make Day Shift a memorable film for the casual viewer. It does feature a lot of violence against vampires as scores and scores of stuntworkers run full bore at our heroes and supporting cast. That should appease the horror fans watching it. At its most basic Day Shift is a light, possibly funny diversion for you this weekend.
Action enthusiasts however will find more to… chew on.
We do love the nod to a classic, thirty-five year old vampire flick right at the very end there. A nice tip of the hat there.
Day Shift is now streaming globally on Netflix
- J.J. Perry
- Shay Hatten
- Tyler Tice
- Jamie Foxx
- Dave Franco
- Snoop Dogg