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'Next Day Air' fails to deliver the goods

MOVIE REVIEW

Director Benny Boom's film can't decide if it's a stoner comedy or a gangsta drama.

May 08, 2009|Sam Adams

An ungainly hybrid of stoner comedy and gangsta drama, "Next Day Air" is "Pulp Fiction" by way of "Half Baked." Centered around a cocaine-filled carton that goes missing thanks to a fully baked delivery man (Donald Faison), the movie jack-rabbits between characters and time frames to little cumulative effect. Hip-hop video director Benny Boom can't seem to decide whether he wants to make a straight-up crime movie or a tongue-in-cheek riff on the genre, and he lacks the wherewithal to do both at once.

Shot in a grimy, eye-scraping palette by "Saw" veteran David Armstrong, the movie is too sloppily written to build any kind of momentum. First-timer Blair Cobbs doesn't even bother to provide a reason for the pivotal misdelivery, nor does he explain why a Latino drug lord (Emilio Rivera) would send a massive shipment of drugs via commercial carrier -- in a large clay pot, yet -- or why the flunky (Cisco Reyes) he's trusted to receive it lacks his own cellphone. It's hard to invest much in the unfolding of the movie's plot when it's got holes you could drive a delivery truck through.

As the devout small-timers who luck into a 10-kilo windfall, Brody (Mike Epps) and Guch (Wood Harris) fall into their roles with tiresome rapidity, throwing up a menacing front to strike a deal with Brody's more experienced cousin (Omari Hardwick). Their hard-case posturing is hollow and humorless, a thuggish script acted out without conviction or critique. At least when Jesus (Reyes), a bit player unwillingly drafted into the drug lord's army, picks up one of the movie's ubiquitous firearms, he does so with a dash of self-consciousness, rehearsing his tough-guy expressions in the mirror with sidearms of ever-increasing size.

That's about all "Next Day Air" can muster by way of invention, trying to slap a new face on a gaggle of rote gestures in a vain attempt to cover its own uselessness.

But no matter how big the guns it draws, every shot is a dud.

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'Next Day Air'

MPAA rating: R for pervasive language, drug content, some violence and brief sexuality

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing: In general release

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