The Gray Man and Red Notice are two of the most popular Netflix originals, as well as the Gray Man's four-quadrant action film. This is because of an algorithm that has consistently criticized Netflix's recent programming as not much more than movies.
Yes, the film was still conceived to appeal to a wide spectrum of viewers, and the film's peculiar blend of action, comedy, and horror feels more like an exploration of genres that were designed with the intention of attracting the widest possible audience. Its more interesting for it than to an oddball cult classic like John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China.
J.J. Perry is a well-known director and stunt performer who has spent over 30 years directing and directing feature films. His 30-year-plus career as a stunt performer and action coordinator has left the movie wondering whether or not it would be appropriate to release Day Shift as its first fully branded 87eleven film project.
Perry depicts a time when stuntmen were almost California cowboys posing as vampires to sell their fangs to his local chapter of the International Union of Vampire Hunters. It's all about Bud Jablonski, a blue-collar monster slayer who is struggling to make ends meet, and unforeseen obstacles making his job more difficult, like a gentrifying elder bloodsucker (Karla Souza).
The refreshingly low stakes and the seamless interplay of the mundane and the supernatural are just two examples of the many film classics that Day Shift is a love letter to. Dead Heat, Fright Night, and other titles all receive their respective homages, among others.
Day Shift does not live or die by these references and homages. Someone who has never seen the older script and directed nod to will still find a lot of quality subtle world-building that suggests where sequels (and spinoffs) might fit if there's a suitable demand.
Tice and Hatten never forget that action films still need relatable characters. They ground the wild proceedings in the tried-and-true mismatched partners formula that has largely fallen out of favor. Bud is placed in the role of the put-upon veteran forced to deal with Francos inexperienced pencil pusher turned field agent, Seth. The two men have an easygoing bond that makes their altercation feel natural rather than overly clever.
The script takes the time to give every major player in the film, even Karla Souza's nasty vampire real-estate broker, brief moments that make the film relatable, even when the plot loses some momentum in the third act in pursuit of the required action conclusion.
The way Day Shift has been expressly promoted under the John Wick brand is a certain draw, and action enthusiasts drawn in will be rewarded with some of 2022's finest action sequences. (See the 2021 Bob Odenkirk as badass assassin crowd-pleaser Nobody) They also give supporting cast members a chance to show off their newly acquired action heroes.
Perry's action preferences have always been a bit more freewheeling than those of his 87eleven colleagues, and it shows in the way Day Shift looks different from Nobody or the John Wick films. The supernatural setting allows him to include more dramatic elements, giving the many action scenes a compelling atmosphere that can only be summarized as Sam Raimi meets Blade in a lucha libre wrestling battle royale.
The dramatic intensity in this set-piece is entirely appropriate coming from a filmmaker who was affectionately dubbed Loco by the stunt community. None of the intricate fight scenes, intense shootouts, or wild car chases featured in the film are obscured by poor editing or unnecessary CGI, all presented clearly and precisely for maximum visual impact. Its a fantastic comeback to the days when film magic was limited to the fearless stunt performers risking their lives to capture genuine thrills in front of a camera.
Netflix's Day Shiftsplace will have a lot of competition for viewer attention, with the platform's seemingly never-ending content stream always moving on to the next film or series without giving new releases much time in the spotlight. Hopefully, these obstacles will not prevent the potential audience from discovering it.
Day Shift is now available on Netflix.