Crime/Comedy | rated R (A, L, N, V, G) | starring Donald Faison, Cisco Reyes, Yasmin Deliz, Mike Epps, Darius McCrary, Mos Def | 1:33 mins
When a Next Day Air delivery guy (Donald Faison) gets high and delivers a package to the wrong apartment it lands several bricks of cocaine in the hands of a den of common thugs who have their own ideas for it and starts dropping a series of dominos as the couple intended to get it hunt down the package.
Next Day Air is an absolutely bonkers movie. A ramshackled train wreck where different styles, tones and genres thrash together. First-time director Benny Boom and writer Blair Cobbs (are either of those real?) seem to be completely on the same page when it comes to making a movie that is without a hint of consistency, effectiveness or comprehension. It is their attempt at making an urban American version of the quirky criminal Guy Ritchie movies (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrells, Snatch, RocknRolla). But it’s a copy and paste effort, stitched together like a Frankenstein’s monster without any idea of how to make the quirky-violence blend work.
Swinging wildly from farcical comedy to gangster movie to torture flick, this rabid wild animal is all over the place. One minute a drug boss is threatening to kill someone of they don’t get the coke back, next minute two dudes are hanging out getting high, the next a bloody shoot-out breaks out, the next a guy answers his gun when the phone rings (yeah, you read that right). Each wild tonal shift seems isolated in the scene or moment it is shown in. Then we get another left turn and another. This is a very long winded way of saying that Next Day Air isn’t funny for a second. What could have been a farcical urban drugs and guns comedy is constantly undermined by deadly serious threats, violence and torture delivered not in the wicked tone of a black comedy but in the tone that these threats are real and may very well put the life of the person we’re supposed to be laughing at in danger.
Here are two fine examples of botched dark comedy moments. In one a thug comes into a store to purchase some rope and duct tape. Joke is that he’s obviously a thug not even trying to hide it, but not only is there no punch line, the bit is completely undermined when he pulls a gun and robs the teller and Boom simmers up the dramatic music. In another bit Jesus (Cisco Reyes) – the poor sap under the thumb of a Columbian-like dealer to get the package back – tells his girlfriend about about how he stood up to some street thugs. It’s the kind of macho bravado story intercut with what really happened (Jesus sniveling and backing down) that usually elicits a laugh. Not here because the flashback of the thugs torturing a guy and telling Jesus he is next looks like it was shot by Darren Lynn Bousman with the spinning camera, quick cuts, smeared green tint and screaming torture of a Saw movie. The threat far outweights Jesus’ supposed cowardace and story manipulation.
Like a Guy Ritchie movie, Air is populated entirely of thugs and criminals. It seems to center around a few characters but none of them could be considered likeable or funny. None of them draw our focus or give us someone to root for or against. The movie begins by dropping us into their lives and has them cracking charcter jokes expecting us to laugh as if we know them already. Only Faison’s loser delivery guy is given any set-up and then he dissapears for the entire 2nd act, leaving the movie in the hands of bickering couple, Jesus and Chita (Yasmin Deliz), that aren’t as amusing and brashly funny as they seem to think they are. Despite the eye candy of Deliz, these two characters put the movie off a cliff very fast.
If you pulled a random 30 seconds out of Next Day Air you would think it was a well made movie. Boom emulates the styles of others very well. The farcical parts are farcical and the violent parts have the nice amount of blood-spurting. All together though it is a disaster, with no beginning, no ending and nothing original to bring to the table. Boom doesn’t seem to care that his torture scenes look like they’re out of Saw or his final shoot-out is out of a Quintin Tarantino flick or the whole thing is a botched version of a Guy Ritchie movie. Which means the spot for an American filmmaker to make a good American version of a Guy Ritchie movie is still up for grabs.