What if I told you there was a movie that featured rapper Snoop Dogg as a mini-gun toting cowboy vampire hunter? You’d probably shake your head and call me nuts. And I can’t say I would blame you. Even typing the words seemed utterly ridiculous. Yet the visual image you probably have, as crazy as it undoubtedly is, fits so perfectly into “Day Shift”, a proudly wacky and impressively stylistic action comedy from Netflix.
“Day Shift” is the directorial debut for J.J. Hardy who’s best known for his stunt work in the “Fast and Furious” and “John Wick” franchises. He definitely brings that skill set into his direction which is highlighted by several wild and wickedly choreographed action sequences. Add in its gleefully goofy sense of humor, and you have a surprisingly fun and entertaining cocktail that Netflix felt good enough about to get behind.
The film stars Jamie Foxx who plays Bud Jablonski, a hard-working San Fernando Valley pool cleaner. But in the opening scene we learn that cleaning rich people’s pools isn’t Bud’s real occupation. It’s actually a cover for his true line of work – vampire hunting. It seems Los Angeles has quite the vampire problem and that means money for Bud. He hunts down and kills vamps, collecting their fangs and selling them to an underground pawn store owner named Troy (Peter Stormare). It’s not big bucks but it helps pay the bills.
His family life is a little more complicated. Bud is a loving father to his 10-year-old daughter, Paige (Zion Broadnax). But he hasn’t been the most dependable which is why his ex-wife, Jocelyn (Meagan Good) is considering selling their house and moving in with her mother in Florida. Bud begs Jocelyn not to take Paige away and convinces her to give him five days to get $10,000, the cost of Paige’s braces and school tuition.
Here’s Bud’s problem – Troy isn’t paying what he once did for vampire fangs. The only way he can get the cash he needs is by selling them to the Union – a global underground network of vampire hunters. Unfortunately things have soured between him and the Union’s LA branch and he’s had his membership revoked. No membership, no sale. So he seeks the help of his old friend and beloved Union stalwart, Big John Elliott (Snoop Dog).
Now let me stop and say the absurdity of Snoop Dogg’s introduction is the moment I felt in-tune with the movie’s humor. As Bud waits outside the Union’s headquarters (secretly posing as an old dry cleaners), an extended cab 4×4 pickup rolls up. Out of it steps Big John, ‘cool man’ music playing and the camera scanning him in deliberate slo-mo. Of course what we see is Snoop Dogg, decked out in a denim shirt, rawhide vest, cowboy hat, boots, and a belt buckle as big as Texas. It’s a truly funny sight.
With Big John‘s help, Bud is able to persuade the ill-tempered Union boss Seeger (Eric Lange in a hilariously dreadful wig) to reinstate him and put him back in the field. But Seeger is looking for a reason to give Bud the boot. So he assigns him a partner, Seth (Dave Franco) a nerdy and anxious Union accountant with no field experience whatsoever. Seth’s job is simple – tag along and secretly log all of Bud’s code violations. That’ll give Seeger the ammo he needs to send him packing.
The film’s antagonist is Audrey (Karla Souza), an area realtor with an affection for bright stylish pants suits. What people don’t know is that she’s a vampire with some pretty sinister plans for the Valley. More personally, she has a particularly nasty vendetta against Bud which sets up most of the second half conflict. It all culminates in a decent ending, but one that isn’t quite as satisfying as the journey to it.
Still, along the way “Day Shift” has some nice surprises. There are several gloriously over-the-top set pieces that will be catnip for action fans. And the movie’s brazen self-awareness allows it to have a lot of fun often at its own expense. Not all the humor lands, but there are plenty of funny moments. And there are a number of goofy twists to the traditional vampire movie lore that opens the door to all sorts of silliness (vampire sun screen, anyone?). All of those things make it easier to overlook the final act faults and keep things light and frothy, which is all you want from a movie like this. “Day Shift” premieres today (August 12th) on Netflix