Last year, Netflix made Night Teeth – in which LA limo drivers were secret vampire slayers combatting a plan by an immortal fiend to take over the city. This year, here’s the premise again (but superficially different): LA pool cleaners are secret vampire slayers combatting a plan by an immortal fiend to take over the city. Both derive from Blade, though the title of this evokes the Russian Night Watch/Day Watch franchise. Of all these similar premises, Day Shift offers the blandest take. It’s too jokey to be scary and too broad to be funny – not content with giving Dave Franco two piss-his-pants scenes, he gets more head-falls-off gags than you can stand, plus the last line homage to The Lost Boys (a film I like a lot less than, say, Vamp).
Bud Jablonski (Jamie Foxx stuck with a role even the Will Smith of Bright would pass on) is a Will Smith-type struggling average joe with an estranged wife (Meagan Good) and adorable moppet (Zion Broadnax). He needs to rejoin the vampire hunters’ union to collect big bounties on fangs to pay for private school and orthodontistry so his family won’t move to Florida. For ‘reasons’, Bud is on the outs with the union – though he’s still pals with legendary slayer Big John (Snoop Dogg, doing Kris Kristofferson in Blade) – and forced to go to non-union fang-bounty provider Troy (Peter Stormare). When Bud tries to get his ticket again, an unsympathetic mulleted supervisor (Eric Lange) saddles him with tagalong rep Seth (Franco), who goes from wimp to slayer to vampire over the course of the film – an arc, but from one irritating jerk to another kind of irritating jerk. Meanwhile, real estate tycoon Audrey (Karla Souza) is moving various breeds of vampire (uber, spider, etc) into valley homes as part of a vague grand plan hatched in her Aztec-themed underground lair.
Every so often there are impressive if repetitive martial arts battles with twisty, jumping, hissing, no-character vampires – the good guys are joined by some comedy Russians (Scott Adkins, Steve Howey) for one set-piece. As in Blade, Underworld, From Dusk Till Dawn, Vampires and so many others that it isn’t a novelty any more, special vampire-killing weaponry is used a lot. The heroes have big guns that blast silver shot through hearts, silver razorwire strands to sever heads (‘works every time’), swords, boot-knives, etc. The vampires, as usual, rely on acrobatics, hissing, fang-baring and other visually-striking but ineffectual measures: it still baffles me that vampires are the only violent faction in America who don’t stockpile and use guns … since all these superskilled slayers could easily be picked off at long range by sniper-fire. That Audrey hasn’t realises this makes her status as mastermind a bit problematic, though Souza is fun in the role.
Natasha Liu Bordizzo shows up, is physically impressive, but has not much to do as a good vampire … hold on, there are good vampires? The script (Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten) is predicated on vampires all being fiends from hell, but the rules get changed halfway through for no reason except to give Dave Franco a shot at being in the sequel. Directed by stunt specialist J.J. Perry, Day Shift is a selection of okay but familiar set-pieces (it’s a vampire movie with a long daylit car chase) strung together by family soap opera, union bashing (I admit that’s a new theme in vampire cinema), shrugged-off plot threads and seriously-can-we-get-past-this rote concepts (as soon as you meet wife and daughter you know this is going to go down that tiresome route of putting the womenfolk in peril so Bud can get his family back with a display of rescue heroics).
Netflix is becoming the new Cannon – remember when they hired in Sylvester Stallone, Christopher Reeve/Superman and others in the 1980s and made bloated, awkward, just-not-as-good-as-even-Carolco nothingy star vehicles with them? Even their occasional art ventures feel like Golan and Globus backing Godard’s King Lear. I liked Night Teeth – which is nothing special – a lot more than Day Shift.