May 10, 2009

Movie Review: Next Day Air

nextdayair1_largeHere is a movie that shows just how different the finished product can be when compared to expectations driven by advertising. The trailer for Next Day Air promises a madcap crime/comedy of mistaken identity, the film delivers a comedy filled with drugs, violence and stereotypes that delivers the goods, but is most decidedly not what is advertised. I went in looking for a film similar to Friday, that is exactly what I got; well, that is exactly what I got if Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie teamed up to make it. The movie is not as funny as I was expecting and considerably more bloody and violent than I was expecting. However, it is still a rather entertaining film that never takes itself too seriously and knows to keep its tale brief before becoming exposed to further cliches or any boredom can threaten to set in.

nextdayairpic2The story is a simple one. Leo (Donald Faison, Scrubs) works for a FedEx type company called Next Day Air. The man is not terribly good at his job, considering he spends much of the day smoking marijuana it is not surprising that he has a number of complaints lodged with management regarding his service. After begging for his job, Leo heads out for his run and promptly delivers a package to the wrong apartment. This is where everything begins to go wrong.

Inside the apartment are a couple of hapless, would-be criminals. Brody (Mike Epps) and Guch (Wood Harris), plus a rather sleepy individual who is not a friend with either man, but remains all the same. They crack the large box open only to discover ten bricks of high quality cocaine. The men's prayers have seemingly been answered as they know just who to sell the fine powder to.

Down the hall is a Puerto Rican couple, Jesus (Cisco Reyes) and his girlfrind (Yasmin Deliz). This is where the coke was supposed to go and when it doesn't arrive, the excitable and paranoid Jesus is left to explain to his boss, the Mexican drug lord Bodega (Emilio Rivera), and he is none too happy.

A few more players get involved as Jesus madly searches for Leo, believing he stole the package, and the Brody/Guch tag team try to sell the drugs and make some bank. Everything culminates in a hail of bullets, a few splashes of blood, and a few laughs as everything comes together.

nextdayairpic5I want to say Next Day Air is better than I had hoped it would be, and I can, I just don't think I would be telling the entire truth. I was kind of hoping for more of a comedy, but that would probably have meant more of a cliched film. I was pleasantly surprised to find the story to be a bit weightier and result in more of a serious film with events that have actual implications on the characters. However, it is that blend of comedy and serious action that both helps and hinders the project as a whole.

Benny Boom was in the director's chair making his big screen debut, jumping over from music videos. He did a good job keeping the film on track, walking the fine line between the silly and the serious. He worked from a script from first timer Blair Cobbs, who does not seem to know what type of film he wanted to make, ultimately mashing them together the best way he can.

The ensemble cast does the best they can with what little they have. It seems that some of the characters did not have a lot of time to make their presence felt, most notably is Mos Def, who is fantastic in his brief screen appearance. Yasmin Deliz makes much of her time, making an impression as the strong girlfriend who refuses to sit by and be a mere witness to events that could impact her own survival.

Still, as pleasantly surprising and well constructed as it was, I cannot help but wonder what it could have done had they chosen one direction or the other. This mish-mash of genres is a little jarring as we move back and forth between violence and bloodshed and pot-smoking comedy. It is not done quite as elegantly as Pineapple Express.

Bottomline. I did like this movie. The story keeps its focus while its genre does not. The ensemble cast does a fine job with what they are given. This is worth taking a look at.



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