One number can change your life. Especially, it seems, if you’re a package delivery dude who gets stoned on the job and takes a box to the wrong address.
Leo Jackson knows about this firsthand.
Slacker Leo’s work is so sloppy at Next Day Air (just change brown to gray and UPS to NDA) that his mom, who just so happens to be his boss, threatens to fire him. He promises to shape up, of course. But the minute he’s out of her office, he’s toking up again.
By the time Leo makes it to his next drop-off address, he’s smoked enough weed to get the greater Philly metro area high. So it’s no real surprise that his vision and judgment are seriously messed up. When he delivers a large box to apartment 302 instead of 303, he doesn’t even realize his mistake.
But the wrongful recipients, Brody and Guch, sure do. Within the walls of their crusty, chaotic man cave, these bumbling, small-time thugs are totally stoked about the delivery. Why? Because it’s 10 kilos of the highest grade cocaine they’ve ever seen. They plan to make a killing by selling it to Brody’s dealer cousin, Shavoo, and his partner, Buddy—ideally without getting killed themselves.
Chita and Jesús, the squabbling Puerto Rican couple in 303 and “rightful” owners of said box, find out about Leo’s mistake, too. They’re not quite as happy about it as Brody and Guch, though. Bodega, their kingpin drug dealer, is going to massacre them as a result, and not metaphorically.
So, Bodega, Chita and Jesús scramble to find Leo. Leo scrambles to find Brody and Guch. And Brody and Guch scramble to keep their ill-gotten gain.
Let’s just leave it at this: Things get bloody at the end of this so-called comedy.
Despite their constant bickering and put-downs, Chita does love Jesús and protects him when he is wounded.
Shavoo says he wants to quit the drug business. He tells Buddy, “If it ain’t worth dyin’ for, you don’t wanna be in it.” (Yet he’s claimed to be ready to stop “a million times” and is still dealing coke when a near-death experience finally makes him re-reconsider.)
Chita appears to pray and perform a voodoo-like ritual with alcohol, marijuana, pottery shards and a photograph. She also crosses herself at least once, and there’s a wooden cross hanging from her car’s rearview mirror.
Jokes (some of them crass) are traded about Jesús’ name being similar to Jesus’. When his life is threatened, Leo wonders if God is telling him to stop smoking pot. Brody believes God sent the cocaine to them to provide a way out of their current (one would assume financial) situation.
Most of the women dress in provocative, low-cut, barely there outfits. Chita, for instance, nearly falls out of her top in one scene.
Guch and Brody call for prostitutes who begin to kiss and caress each other as the men watch. One of these ladies is naked from the waist up, and both are wearing g-strings. The camera closes in on their almost completely bare backsides.
Jesús and Chita are shown asleep in bed together. Leo’s co-worker, Eric, talks about having had sex with his parole officer and jokes about “appreciating” Leo’s mom. While high, Leo hits on two scantily clad women he says he thought were prostitutes.
Long-time music video director Benny Boom says Next Day Air, his first film, is full of “action.” Except by action, he must be referring to wholesale slaughter—along with shooting, beating and slicing.
Very little makes me gasp, but when a man’s tongue was unexpectedly cut out in this film, I admit to rapidly sucking in some air. We see him struggle against his assailant and bite the man’s hand, but he’s overtaken. He groans as the cutting occurs out of frame, and soon we see his bloodied mouth and the attacker holding the flesh.
Nothing improves after that.
Another man’s face is burned with a cigar and beaten. Hand-to-hand combat with knives or fists occurs several times, with at least one man getting stabbed in the leg and someone eventually getting killed as a knife is slowly pushed down into his chest. Shavoo and Buddy threaten two men with acetone and a cigarette lighter, then bind and gag them.
Virtually everyone has a gun pointed in their face at some point. But the movie’s mind-blowing high, so to speak, is an extremely bloody gunfight that comes along right before the credits. We see most of the characters shot, and they tumble around the apartment as they die in a gory mess.
About 200 f-words, of which at least 50 are “m—–f—er.” More than 100 s-words. God’s name is misused around 10 times, usually with “d–n.” Crude slang for male genitalia gets a bit of a workout. There’s an obscene hand gesture.
Mos Def and Wood Harris convinced Next Day Air castmates and crew not to use the n-word on the set or in the movie. That’s fantastic, but sadly they—and their female co-stars—didn’t bat an eye at more than 30 instances of “b–ch” in either English or Spanish.
The cocaine is said to be so pure it “would make a nun get naked.” Characters refer to or handle the white stuff regularly. One scene shows Shavoo processing coke in a powder-filled room. Chita and several others drag on marijuana joints.
Alcohol also makes a pretty big splash, as do cigars and cigarettes. Brody and Guch’s housemate seem to live (well, sleep) in a perpetual state of some type of intoxication.
Leo and Eric’s work ethic is nonexistent—despite the fact that Eric is employee of the month.
There’s no honor among drug dealers and no trust in family or friends. At first, Brody thinks he can count on his cousin, Shavoo, but Guch remains skeptical of everyone. Later, Guch claims that a brother would kill for 10 kilos of cocaine—and he would even kill Brody. Apparently, that’s just the way it goes. In fact, when given a choice, Leo takes the blood-covered drug money and runs, threatening to kill a couple who happen to be passing by. Jesús and Chita take the coke once they know Bodega can’t hurt them.
There’s also a brief cock fighting scene.
Some words don’t make much sense when they’re combined. “California expressway,” for example. Or “accidentally on purpose” and “Microsoft Works.” Now, thanks to movie genre seeds planted by Cheech and Chong and reinforced by the likes of Pineapple Express, we should add another oxymoron to the list: “drug comedy.”
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not sure when drug abuse, theft, beatings, shootings and maimings became even remotely funny.
Besides continuing to rewrite comedy’s definition, Next Day Air seems to want to reinforce hurtful racial stereotypes. African-American Eric, for example, steals from the boxes he should be delivering, but says he would scream discrimination if he were accused (even though he’s guilty as sin and knows it). He encourages Leo to rifle through boxes by saying, “It’s America, steal something!”
Meanwhile, Jesús and Chita bicker, denigrate and even abuse each other continually. When interviewed by collider.com, Cisco Reyes and Yasmin Deliz, the actors who play the couple, claimed that Puerto Rican relationships are just like that. Reyes said, “People wonder how we could actually stay together being that we’re at each other’s throats all the time, but, you know, if you’re from the East Coast and you’ve been in a Latin relationship, you know, that’s actually a normal thing.” Even if they’re right on some level—and they certainly don’t speak for Puerto Ricans as a whole—the attitudes they casually dismiss as normal are far from OK. And they’re really not fun (or funny) to watch played out on a screen.
So allow me to sum up the messages in Next Day Air. 1) You can’t trust your family. 2) A brother would kill anyone for cocaine. 3) Everyone values hard cold cash more than they value you, which means that you should … 4) Take the money and run. 5) African-Americans and Latinos do horrible things.
Are you laughing yet?