Some of us abhor vacuums, while others merely ignore them. Either way, those gaps tend to fill themselves, so that the willing world may indeed discover what a musical set to the tunes of ABBA must look like, or even how an urban answer to Guy Ritchie's twisty comic-violent crime capers would turn out.
Enter Benny Boom, a music video director with the most explosive name this side of Olivier Megaton and his sights set on transplanting one of those topsy-turvy capers from the underbelly of London to the shadier side of Philadelphia. It's a capable, if unremarkable relocation, because Next Day Air does exactly what a Snatch-savvy crowd would expect -- introduce maybe a dozen greedy criminals to one botched crime and let them fall all over each other to get the goods and get out alive -- and not much more. Our unwitting culprit is Donald Faison's oft-stoned delivery driver, who inadvertently drops off a package filled with ten bricks of cocaine to Mike Epps and Wood Harris' small-time crooks instead of just across the hall to its intended recipient, marked man Cisco Reyes and girlfriend Yasmin Deliz. So while one pair almost immediately looks to cut deals with that good fortune which has landed in their laps, the other grows immensely worried when big bad boss Emilio Rivera decides to come into town and track down what is rightfully his. Their best guess? That delivery driver must've taken it...
Faison, usually a reliable source of laughs in 22-minute episodes of Scrubs, doesn't even seem to get that much screen time as the protagonist in a full-length feature, and while Mos Def pops up as a fellow driver and seems set to steal the show, he gets a measly two scenes with which to work his considerable charms. I'd suggest that the film might be better starring Def over Faison, but in reality, we still wouldn't see all that much more of him. Epps (who co-starred in 2006's Something New with Faison) is yet again relegated to the role of a man who talks faster than he thinks, and Reyes and Deliz prove alternately shaken up and downright shrill when the pressure's on (i.e. every scene they have). Rivera makes for a convincing drug dealer, for whatever that's worth, and Debbie Allen of Fame fame makes an appearance as Faison's mom/boss, for whatever that's worth.
Director Boom actually plays things with relative restraint. Sure, he gets in his one montage full of blow, bared breasts, and big fat stacks of cash, and yeah, every flashback has that grainy, gaudy look to it, but what counts me is that he keeps the proceedings competent in the face of a labyrinthine plot that begs for more so-called flair than it deserves (see: Nobel Son, or rather, don't). A sequence of subtitled ebonics isn't so much a raucous lift from Airplane! as it is an opportunity to make a difference between the mere ambition of thugs and the business relationship of entrepreneurs (though I hope that an apparent typo in the subtitles was merely a matter at the screening I viewed, and won't be appearing across a thousand screens this weekend).
In Blair Cobbs' first produced script, everyone is driven by either greed or desperation -- simple motives all around. Some want Escalades, others want out, and rampant miscommunication isn't likely to do anyone any favors. It's a pity more wasn't made with the notion that most of these players just assume that the Feds are after them, when the truth is that the authorities are fairly oblivious to this little skirmish on the streets; I'm not saying it could've made for a minority-laden Burn After Reading or anything, but it's an aspect that goes only touched upon here and there between all the waving guns and flying f-bombs (any eventual TV broadcast of this film should sound just like Morse code)
Naturally, a moral compass or thematic underpinning matters least of all once the bullets start flying, but it's a shame that when things come to their inevitably violent climax, all of these characters and all of their criss-crossing comes out to precious little effect. I'm not entirely sure that the survivors of Next Day Air ultimately deserve what they get, and the same could probably be said for the audience.