“Next Day Air” isn’t a movie. It’s an idea for a movie. Actually, it’s not even that: It’s an idea for the first act of a Quentin Tarantino movie. When it ends, 80 minutes after it began, you’re left thinking, “Is that it? Where’s the rest of the story? We’re just getting started!” But then you shush yourself, because the last thing you want is for this senseless drivel to keep going.
From screenwriter Blair Cobbs (his first credit) and director Benny Boom (a maker of rap videos) comes a film about dimwitted criminals trying to outwit each other, if they can only stop jabbering long enough to formulate a plan. They talk like the people in “Pulp Fiction,” and shoot at each like the people in “Reservoir Dogs,” but the things they say are inane, not pithy. It’s billed as a comedy, but how can that be? I barely detected moments that even seemed like they were supposed to be funny, let alone ones that actually were.
Our hero, I guess, is Leo (Donald Faison), a marijuana-addled delivery driver for Next Day Air (think UPS, if UPS hadn’t laughed when the producers called to see if they could use the name) who is on the verge of being fired over his regular habit of being stoned while on the job. He vows not to smoke anymore, then immediately smokes some more, then delivers a large package to the wrong apartment in a dingy high-rise.
The right apartment belongs to Jesus (Cisco Reyes) — no, not THAT one, a different one — and his Rosie Perez-ish girlfriend, Chita (Yasmin Deliz). Jesus is anxiously waiting for the package, which contains 10 bricks of cocaine and was sent by the nefarious Bodega (Emilio Rivera) for elaborate reasons that are explained in some of the film’s many flashbacks.
The wrong apartment, across the hall, where the package has actually wound up, is home to three bumbling would-be bank robbers, Brody (Mike Epps), Guch (Wood Harris), and Hassie (Malik Barnhardt). Hassie lies on the couch unconscious for most of the film, leading me to question why he was included in the first place, while Brody and Guch have arguments about whose fault it was that their bank heist failed, or that the doors on their getaway car were locked, or that everything they do turns to crap. Then this mysterious box of cocaine shows up, and it’s like a gift from God. (Well, Jesus.)
Presumably you know where it goes from here. Brody and Guch call Brody’s drug-dealer cousin, Shavoo (Omari Hardwick), to sell the merchandise, while Bodega and Jesus track down Leo the delivery guy to see what happened to their package. Meanwhile, Benny Boom occasionally takes time out from weakly imitating Tarantino to weakly imitate Guy Ritchie, filling the story with cutaways and other visual aids. These liven up the story without actually adding anything to it, the equivalent of shaking a rattle at a baby instead of feeding it.
When it all ends, bloodily but happily (sort of), I’m left wondering why — why anyone thought these characters were funny, why anyone thought the clearly half-formed story was ready to be filmed, why the movie was made at all. But never mind all that. The important thing is that the film did, indeed, end. Thank goodness for that.
Note: Contrary to regular industry practice, this film was not screened for critics before opening.
D- (1 hr., 25 min.; )