B

Next Day Air

 

Donald Faison wanders through Next Day Air in a stoned haze as the unlikeliest of catalysts. The baby-faced Scrubs veteran plays a fuckup so incompetent that he can barely hold on to a job where his mom is his boss. Even his smoke-buddy Mos Def has the initiative to steal from his employers and customers, but Faison’s ambitions begin and end with toking as much weed as possible without losing his job. 

Faison sets Next Day Air’s plot in motion when he accidentally delivers a package containing a small fortune in cocaine to a trio of stick-up kids with more balls than brains: Wood Harris, Mike Epps, and a sleepy thug who spends so much time on the couch dozing that he’s become part of the furniture. Scenting a big payday, these small-timers decide to immediately sell the coke to Epps’ cousin, a paranoid mid-level dealer looking to make one last score before leaving the business for good. But the intended recipient of the package isn’t about to let Faison’s screw-up go unpunished, nor is the hotheaded Hispanic kingpin whose drug shipment has mysteriously gone missing.

Veteran music-video director Benny Boom and cinematographer David A. Armstrong give Next Day Air an agreeably sleazy ’70s blaxploitation look and feel, augmented by The Elements’ funky score and the absence of Caucasians in speaking roles. It’s the kind of intentionally grubby genre movie where the production designer’s job is to make sure that everything looks as ugly and run-down as possible, especially the rat-trap of an apartment where much of the action takes place. What initially appears to be a loose, ramshackle, improvisational comedy about aimless hustlers with nothing to do and all day to do it gradually reveals itself as a surprisingly tight, economical thriller that sends a bunch of desperate lowlifes on a collision course with destiny, then ends on an appropriately brutal note. A very pleasant surprise, Next Day Air is the rare crime comedy that does justice to both sides of the equation.

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