Judge Adam Arseneau is priority mail all the way, baby.
It's all in the delivery.
Next Day Air combines the best (or worst) of two film genres—the black-audience comedy with the heist-gone-bad film. The equation works for the most part, but the end result is extremely derivative of better and more entertaining films.
Facts of the Case
Leo (Donald Faison, Scrubs) is a hapless package delivery driver on his last chance. He unwittingly delivers the wrong package a serious shipment of drugs from a Latino cartel to the wrong address, into the waiting hands of three struggling, broke, and incompetent bank robbers. With dollar signs flashing in their eyes, the three already start planning to unload the merchandise, just as the Puerto Ricans start to trace back the cause of the shipment delay: Leo.
With quick witticisms and tough gangster posturing, Next Day Air occupies a peculiar middle ground between 50 Cent music video and hapless heist comedy in the style of Guy Ritchie. There isn't an ounce of reason, logic, or realism to be found in this exercise in preposterousness and racial stereotypes. The black characters are either fierce gangsters or bumbling weed-addled wannabe thugs, the Puerto Ricans women are living parodies of every finger-snapping stereotype every put to film, and the Mexican mobsters are cast from the pool of character actors who always play Mexican mobsters, like Emilio Rivera. The plot bumbles and fumbles through increasingly unlikely scenarios of mess-up after mess-up until the inevitable conclusion, where all plots diverge in Leo's face.
Essentially, this is a heist movie on massive amounts of weed. The jokes are lowbrow and pedantic, and the plot is convoluted, contorted and constricted by improbable leaps of logic. It moves fast, barreling from scene to scene with no slowdown, a 70-minute setup to a 10-minute Mexican standoff. The bad guys all get what is coming to them, and the good guys…well, there are no good guys, only levels of less competence. Next Day Air is a film that grinds its comedic gears, occasionally and accidentally slipping into acceleration. When it works, it mixes the best elements of fumbling crime fantasy gone wrong, like Snatch by way of BET. When it fails to impress, it does so with great and cruel gusto.
Donald Faison essentially plays Dr. Turk from Scrubs, except now without a network censor at his heels. He gets to curse and smoke joints. His best sequences play against the indomitable Mos Def, who rolls off his timing like a practiced standup pro, but is on screen for far too short a duration to swing points in the film's favor. I always like to see Wood Harris at work, but he's basically playing a Keystone Kops version of Avon Barksdale from The Wire, all greedy and petulant, incompetent and bumbling.
The film is certainly stylish and handsome. First-time feature director Benny Boom, who seems to have cut his teeth directing rap music videos, mixes just enough flashy tricks and MTV-style effects to create a satisfying debut—nothing groundbreaking, but it suits the film style. A decent anamorphic transfer, with handsome amounts of stylized grain and muted colors, gives the film an edgy look. The audio comes in 5.1 surround and does the job well enough, with the bass kicking in appropriately during the inevitable gunfights. Dialogue is clear, and the soundtrack, a pleasing blend of hip-hop beats and lively Ocean's Eleven-styled jazz pieces, comes through nicely.
Next Day Air is light on extras, but does include an audio commentary track with director Benny Boom and producer Inny Clemons, as well as an outtakes track.
A wholly pointless and mindless dalliance, Next Day Air is a short, disposable, clichéd and redundant crime film, endlessly divided between wanting to be a rap video and a genuine film. It entertains enough to be an entertaining rental, but this homage to hapless gangsters is a mashup you can pass on for purchase.
There are worse films out there, but that's not anywhere near a "not guilty" verdict.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Summit Entertainment
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