Like movies like Red notice and The gray man Seemingly becoming the standard for action-oriented, big-budget Netflix Originals, the streaming giant’s recent production has been widely criticized for being little more than “movies by algorithm.” Netflix’s feature films were often homogenized four-quadrant content specifically designed to garner clicks based on a few recognizable stars, plus just enough CGI-smeared thrills to distract audiences from how bloated and uninspired almost every aspect of these massive productions. The vampire fight action film from Netflix day shift feels like the antithesis of this pattern.
Yes, it’s still designed with cross-genre appeal, complete with Jamie Foxx as the presumed big star at the helm. but day shiftThe odd blend of action, comedy, and horror doesn’t feel like a choice made with the intention of appealing to the widest possible audience. This film’s blend of cinematic flavors harks back to a time when major releases could have very specific, offbeat vibes, most likely aimed at a niche audience. It’s closer to a weird cult classic like John Carpenter’s Big trouble in Little China than to other Netflix Originals, and it’s more interesting for that. In a blockbuster landscape where all big-budget movies feel frustratingly similar, day shift is characterized by a clear point of view, obvious swagger and a decidedly old-fashioned approach.
Director JJ Perry can claim credit for these achievements. Though this is his first time fully at the helm of a feature film, he’s no rookie at delivering top-notch mayhem on screen. His career as a stunt performer and action coordinator spanning more than 30 years is almost unparalleled in Hollywood. When the action design collective 87eleven (the group behind the John Wick franchise and many of the best action sequences of recent cinema) decided to go ahead with it day shift As the first fully branded 87eleven film project, the team turned to Perry, a longtime member of the group, to pilot the ship.
In interviews, Perry seems like a throwback to a time when stuntmen were almost California cowboys who brought real danger to the film sets. The same worker grit-meets-LA-glitz vibe that Perry embodies is everywhere day shift‘s story of worker monster slayer Bud Jablonski (Foxx). Bud poses as a cheap pool cleaner in the San Fernando Valley to disguise his real job: killing vampires to sell their fangs to his local chapter, the International Union of Vampire Hunters. The job helps him make ends meet and support his young daughter – it’s just incredibly dangerous. At his core, Bud is just a working schmo trying to get through the day, dealing with a boss who wants him out of work, a partner he doesn’t want anything to do with (Dave Franco), and unforeseen complications who make his job even more difficult, like a gentrifying elderly bloodsucker (Karla Souza) who has plans to turn the Valley into a new vampire hotspot.
The refreshingly low stakes and the way the everyday and the supernatural blend effortlessly here are just two of the possibilities day shift will remind savvy viewers of the many video stores of the 80s and 90s to which the film is so clearly a declaration of love. The Lost Boys, Dead heatand Terrible night All get their own tributes, alongside other films. Some of these references are presented in a subtle way and are intended for only the most dedicated movie geeks. Others are roaring, loving calls.
day shift however, does not live or die by these references and homages. Someone who’s never seen the older films the script and directors point to will still find plenty of quality subtle world-building that hints at where sequels (and spinoffs) might fit if there’s a demand for it. Screenwriter Shay Hatten (Army of the Dead) and Tyler Tice deal with it without falling into the all-too-common “save it for a sequel” mentality that has halted so many movie franchises before they’ve even gotten started.
For all the world-building and heartfelt tributes, Tice and Hatten never forget that action movies still need relatable characters. They justify the wild procedure with the tried-and-true “mismatched partners” formula, which has largely fallen out of favor. You put Bud in the role of the cocked-up veteran who is forced to contend with Franco’s inexperienced pencil pusher and field agent, Seth. Much of the film’s comedy comes from their pairing, and the two men have a lighthearted chemistry that helps their banter feel natural and not overly clever.
The script also takes the time to give each of the film’s main characters, even Karla Souza’s villainous vampire real estate agent, brief moments that make them more human. These character moments, big and small, help keep the film compelling, even if the plot loses a bit of coherence in the third act to build the requisite action finale.
Speaking of action, by the way day shift Marketed explicitly through the John Wick name, it’s a guaranteed draw, and action fans lured by the connection will be rewarded with some of the best action sequences of 2022. The 87eleven team is known for working extensively with lead actors to ensure they appear on screen as competent as the experienced stunt performers they accompany. (See 2021 crowd favorite Bob Odenkirk as Badass Assassin No one as a prime example.) They work the same magic here. day shift Jamie Foxx not only gives Jamie Foxx plenty of fist-pumping moments to slice and blast his way through dozens of supernatural villains, but also gives supporting cast like Dave Franco and Snoop Dogg a chance to show off their newly-earned action hero skills. It’s a delight to see how actors who aren’t usually known for their physicality mix it up so convincingly on screen.
Perry’s action sensibility has always been a little more free-roaming than his 87eleven peers, and it shows in the manner day shift looks different No one or the John Wick films. This film shows his more outlandish impulses. day shift‘s plot is reminiscent of that “tactically cool” Wick style, but the supernatural setting allows him to incorporate more over the top elements. This lends the many action scenes, such as a stunning daytime gang heist to a suburban vampire den (with an extended appearance from DTV action superstar Scott Adkins as vampire striker), an atmosphere that can best be summed up as: “Sam Raimi meets.” blade in a lucha libre wrestling battle royale.”
The chaos in this set piece feels totally appropriate, coming from a director the stunt community affectionately calls “Loco.” Best of all, none of the film’s intricate fight scenes, intense gunfights, or wild car chases are obscured by poor editing or unnecessary CGI. Everything is presented clearly and fine-tuned for maximum visual impact. It’s a great throwback to the days when a film’s most valuable “movie magic” element was the fearless stunt performers risking life and limb to capture real thrills in front of a movie camera.
day shift‘s Space on Netflix means there’s going to be a lot of competition for viewers’ attention, as the platform’s seemingly endless stream of content always moves on to the next movie or series, without new releases spending much time in the spotlight. It’s also having to contend with the increasingly negative stigma surrounding recent Netflix Original films. Hopefully, these obstacles don’t stop the film’s potential audience from discovering it. day shift is a treat for genre fans and a perfect example of the unusual, flavorful projects Netflix should invest in going forward.
day shift now streaming on Netflix.