- Rated R
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All photos © Summit Entertainment
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
nless you’re a member of the urban community, it’s very easy to get turned off by films specifically targeted toward that crowd. Tyler Perry's movies, for example, are an all-or-nothing proposition. Like one of them, and odds are you'll like his many others, but the opposite is also true, and movies like "Next Day Air" suffer because of that bias. It’s clearly intended to act as a small slice of counter-programming for the select few not looking forward to J.J. Abrams' “Star Trek,” but "Next Day Air" is actually a fun crime caper that even those not interested in urban comedies might enjoy.
“Scrubs” star Donald Faison is Leo, a dope-smoking delivery man for a UPS-like parcel service called Next Day Air. When his boss (who also happens to be his mother) threatens to fire him after a series of complaints from customers, Leo promises to begin taking his job more seriously. Instead, he lights up a joint the minute he gets back into his truck, causing him to deliver his next package to the wrong apartment. What he doesn’t realize is that the package actually contains ten bricks of grade-A cocaine, which career criminals Guch (Wood Harris) and Brody (Mike Epps) are all too happy to receive. While the duo set up a deal to sell the cocaine to Brody’s drug dealing cousin (Omari Hardwick) before anyone is the wiser, Jesus (Cisco Reyes), a Puerto Rican dealer and the intended recipient of the package, tries to track down Leo before his ruthless boss Bodega (Emilio Rivera) arrives in town.
If you’re wondering why Mos Def wasn’t mentioned in the above summary when his face is displayed front and center on the poster, it’s because he only shows up in a cameo role that, while memorable, still doesn’t deserve a headlining credit. In fact, not even Faison plays a very large part in the film (he’s really just there to guide the story along), leaving the lesser known names to pick up the slack. Wood Harris, best remembered for his role as the stone cold Avon Barskdale on HBO’s “The Wire,” fares the best of the group as the leader of the motley crew of criminals, while Mike Epps manages to tone down his usually annoying personality to deliver a half-decent performance as Harris’ right-hand man. None of the other cast members are even remotely as good, but that has more to do with rookie director Benny Boom’s inexperience behind the camera. He may have made a few music videos in the past, but Boom simply isn't capable of getting good performances from his actors – almost as if he used the first take without even challenging them to try something different.
It really hurts the end product, which is a shame, because “Next Day Air” certainly had the potential to be better. Best described as “Snatch” for the urban crowd, the film might not be nearly as complex in terms of the number of characters and plot twists, but first-time screenwriter Blair Cobbs’ script still delivers the kind of smart dialogue and eccentric characters that we’ve all come to expect in a Guy Ritchie crime caper. Sure, the spotty direction and questionable acting don’t make watching it any easier, but if “Next Day Air” helps shut down the factory line of broad comedies starring Tyler Perry, it might just force those previously uninterested in urban cinema to finally get interested.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
A movie like “Next Day Air” was never going to have very many special features, but the few that do appear are actually quite good. The audio commentary with director Benny Boom and producer Inny Clemons is lively and informative, with the duo discussing various influences and thanking just about everyone involved in making the film, while the included outtake reel runs six minutes long and features a good share of laughs.