The buddy cop movie has taken all types of forms over the last 50 years. Stick to the formula and hire two mismatched leads, and you’ve at least got yourself a semi-watchable decent film. Day Shift sticks to that ageless formula for movie success; it’s wrinkle is that its enemies are as ageless as the buddy cop formula. I smell a forthcoming buddy cops as vampires movie!
To his wife Jocelyn (Meagan Good) and daughter Paige (Zion Broadnax), Bud Jablonski (Jamie Foxx) is just your run of the mill pool cleaner in Los Angeles, trying to make ends meet as best he can. But after we see him at work, “pool cleaning” is code for vampire hunting, for which Bud is one of the best. And one of the most volatile, because he’s been kicked out the vampire hunting union. Desperate for cash, Bud gets his pal Big John Elliott (Snoop Dogg) to persuade union boss Ralph (Eric Lange) to give Bud this one last chance at union membership. Under the radar though, Ralph sends pencil pusher Seth (Dave Franco) to keep a close eye on Bud, and report any violations he sees.
I’m really into the John Wickification of movies about hitmen/hunters. It makes the world the characters live in much more interesting. The concept of Vampire Hunting as a police job is mined for comedy early and often, as we learn how reigned in Jamie Foxx is by the endless rules and how Dave Franco is just on a quest to be middle management, kissing his boss’s ass and going for Carol’s seat. For storytelling efficiency, we only get peeks into the vampire’s lives in Los Angeles, but the creatures are more there to engage in fight sequences with Bud, Seth, and other vampire hunters. The battle sequences are CGI heavy, but they’re at least fun to watch, with vampires using all sorts of body contortions mixed with martial arts to avoid silver bullets from the hunters. And most importantly, the kills are varied and requisitely gnarly.
But the joy of Day Shift relies on the vampire buddy copping ability of Jamie Foxx and Dave Franco. Thankfully the seasoned vets elevate a pretty mediocre script with their talents. Jamie Foxx nails the “getting too old for this sh*t” Bud, constantly snarking and eyerolling his way through the hunts: always the coolest guy in the room unless Snoop is around. Dave Franco was surprisingly game for playing the mawkish Seth. I appreciated his willingness to look like a complete newbie idiot for comedy’s sake, and his arc over the course of the movie gave him a chance to do show some of his really weird energy he can bring to a movie if he’s given the chance to. The pair bounce off each other reasonably well, finding just enough prickly banter to keep the movie going until the next vampire hunt. And finally, god bless Snoop, who’s in this movie for two scenes but oh man, does Day Shift come alive when he saunters into frame: a black cowboy for the ages!
I appreciate that Day Shift abided by the buddy cop formula to mostly fun effect. But I appreciate even more that they checked the Bart Simpson story formula as well. In fact, most movies could have used a vampire to make them better. Can you imagine Jurassic Park with a vampire? Or When Harry Met Sally? Or even Twilight? I’m sorry, but sparkling in the sunlight disqualifies you, Edward Cullen.