As the new film “Day Shift” proves mixing the horror genre with action is tough. Adding in comedy is even harder.
Director J.J. Perry’s feature length debut doesn’t always hit its mark but entertains nonetheless thanks to a focused first half and a good cast.
Less a pure Horror effort and more of an amusement park ride, director Perry goes for the fun of it all.
The always entertaining Jamie Foxx is Bud Jablonski. On the surface, Fox’s character is an L.A. pool cleaner, but in actuality he is a vampire hunter who sells the teeth of the bloodsuckers to pay the bills.
Bud is worried about losing his ex-wife (Megan Goode) and daughter (the adorable Zion Broadnax), as the lack of steady income will soon force Bud’s ex to move in with her mother, who resides in Florida.
The involving first half of the film focuses on Bud trying to make ten grand in only one week’s time, in the hope of paying off the family home and expensive school so the two women in his life can stay close.
The screenplay finds some humanity in the moments between Bud and his ex, who left him because he lied and kept secrets from her. Of course, the man could never reveal his hidden life as a vampire hunter. Bud loves his family dearly. Foxx smartly shows the pain of wanting his wife back but knowing that the truth certainly would not make things right.
Bud’s relationship to his daughter is special and finds Foxx and young Broadnax sharing some sweet and tender moments.
As Bud desperately tries to kill more vamps, to get the proper pay he must also try to rejoin the vampire hunter’s union, which kicked him out for being a lone wolf and breaking too many rules.
The film goes falters in the character of Seeger (Eric Lange), the head of the union. His scenes with Foxx and Franco fall flat and fail to find any comedic spark. The character is nothing new and is written as one-note smarmy, existing only to “get his” by film’s end.
Karla Souza as the villainous vamp fails to register. Her evil plan is silly, as she plans to buy homes in a neighborhood to create a home base for all Los Angeles vampires. Be it the fault of the uneven screenplay (from Shay Hatten and Tyler Tice) or the actress’s apparent disinterest, this is one boring baddie.
Snoop Dogg fares better as Big John Elliott, a badass, vampire-killing, legend complete with black trench coat and cowboy hat. Laconic, Snoop’s character exudes a “Man with No Name” vibe and, with little screen time, steals the film, but he is not alone.
Bud is saddled with the goofy Seth (Dave Franco in one hell of an entertaining turn), a representative under clear orders to gather evidence that will permanently ban Bud from the union. Franco finds comic gold and breathes life into every moment. Seth is nervous and intimidated, bumbling more than he helps.
Franco is very funny (especially his defense of the “Twilight” films) and his scenes with Foxx help the film, as they take on a charming “buddy cop” quality.
Director Perry is a skilled martial artist and stunt coordinator. His background shows in the inventively choreographed fight scenes.
The film’s highlight action set piece is when Bud and Seth meet up with Russian brothers/vampire killers The Nazarian brothers played to the hilt by Steve Howey and modern action film legend Scott Adkins.
The four men enter a home that is revealed to be a hive for vampires. As the beasts literally come out of the woodwork, the scene becomes a blood soaked and body part filled moment of mayhem like something out of a Grindhouse Kung-Fu film.
The film is uneven, and the mix of comedy, horror, and action doesn’t always work, but there is enough good found within to hold an audience’s interest.
While far from pop culture treasures like 1985’s “Fright Night” or 1987’s double whammy of vampire classics “Near Dark” and “The Lost Boys,” between the well-staged fight scenes, inventive drone camerawork, a driving action score from Tyler Bates, and one blast of a car chase, director J.J. Perry and his all-in cast assure that “Day Shift” entertains.