As far as horror/action/comedy movies go, Night Shift is much better at the action than comedy. This isn’t consistently funny but there’s a few laughs when it gets close to Evil Dead 2 style splatter chaos. First time feature director J.J. Perry has a giant list of previous experience as a stunt director for big franchises and he pours the stunt mayhem into here. There’s also some cliché family drama that doesn’t add much. While the movie may be overtly ambitious laying track for sequels that could never happen, the bits of vampire smashing and mismatched buddy comedy antics are good enough.
Bud (Jamie Foxx) has a day job as a pool cleaner but what he really does is take out vampires and sell their teeth. He used to be part of the union organized vampire hunters but now he’s an independent contractor selling vampire teeth on the black market to the sketchy pawn shop owner, Troy (Peter Stormare). When Bud’s ex-wife Jocelyn (Megan Good) threatens to move their daughter, Paige (Zion Broadnax), across the country, Bud needs to be back in the vampire hunting union’s good graces for benefits and better payouts. The boss, Ralph (Eric Lange) doesn’t like bringing Bud back into the union as Bud was reckless, but Bud’s buddy, Big John Elliot (Snoop Dogg), vouches for him. So, Bud hits the streets with a union supervisor, the fussy Seth (Dave Franco) while a master vampire Audrey (Karla Souza) consolidates her power. Things get more complicated as Seth is a complete mess in the field who literally pees himself in terror, and Bud’s new apartment neighbour Heather (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) may be more than she seems.
There is quite a lot of worldbuilding that goes into Day Shift which makes it ambitious. There’s a hierarchy of all the different types of vampires which gets a brief mention but is never expanded on. The idea that Bud’s black market vampire hunting gig is low profit and he needs the prestigious union benefits, and potentially family-saving dental plan, is unique. It would be rote in any office comedy but throw some vampires in there and it becomes interesting. There is also a mention of a head vampire out there, El Jefe, that should be the big villain Audrey but nope. Which is very unsatisfying to mention the larger bad El Jefe and not pay it off as it basically becomes unsubtle sequel bait. Unsurprisingly, Bud’s friendly new neighbour Heather turns out to be a vampire but for some reason she’s a good vampire who opposes Audrey. Basically, she’s just there to give Bud and Seth a side-kick but Bordizzo does cut an impressive figure during the action bits.
Foxx has been funnier in comedies and in better action movies while here he’s a working dad trying to provide for his kid. The daughter subplot is there to humanize Bud, or at least make him less of a greedy jerk. The daughter and ex-wife are supposed to make him a likable working-class hero who happens to slaughter vampires. Good as the wife is just sort of snippy while Broadnax as the kid acts cute and, unsurprisingly, both the daughter and ex-wife are used as kidnap bait. Foxx is at his best at the terse little side-comments about how annoying Seth is, like when the wimpy guy comes into Bud’s workshop and then immediately starts trashing things. Franco is broad and loud but it kind of works. He’s a bureaucratic fusspot behind the desk and then turns into a completely cowering wimp in the field. He gets more interesting as the movie goes on and in the third act he has dopey, gory comedy moments. The most entertaining friend of Bud is Snoop Dog’s Big John Elliot. Snoop doesn’t do much different but it’s always fun to see Snoop in anything and he has a badass exit from the film.
Bud has a hardass boss at the union and Lange plays every single boss cliché wrapped into one. The black-market pawn shop owner played by Stormare is basically the same vaguely European criminal guy Stormare has basically been playing since Fargo but he’s still very good at it. Souza as Audrey the main vampire is also a real estate agent and she wants to buy up property and move in vampires to take over the city, although she’s kind of underwhelming as a villain who says some generic evil things.
Things get good when Day Shift turns itself over to fully vampire smashing. The film starts as Bud breaks into a house and takes out an old lady vampire as vampires contort themselves into freaky spider-walking creatures. Another good scene is when Bud and Seth hit up a whole house of vampires with two huge vampire hunters that turns into mass carnage. One of the big finale battles is set to “Body Count’s in the House” which is almost unfair because just playing it while shotgunning vampires makes it cooler than it should be.
Day Shift has some bits of vampire splatter and some comedic moments however the funny bits are never truly hilarious, mostly just mildly amusing. There’s a blue-collar work ethic vibe to the vampire slaughter that gives Day Shift a distinct take. All the vampire mayhem makes for a decent, if forgettable, time.
Director: J. J. Perry
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Meagan Good, Karla Souza, Steve Howey, Scott Adkins and Snoop Dogg