The idea in these kinds of stories is the ticking clock, using the foreknowledge of the confrontation to come to build tension and suspense until the moment arrives. And usually to engage in a few funny, entertaining digressions in the process, but video director Benny Boom, making his feature debut, keeps unbalancing his film in favor of the second choice, delivering a film that ends with more of a whimper than a bang. That wouldn’t be too bad if the rest of it was entertaining enough to make up the difference, but it’s not. It’s the kind of movie directors like Guy Ritchie and Joe Carnahan love to make, repeatedly, just less clever.
Leo himself is actually something of a red herring, as Boom and first-time screenwriter Blair Cobbs spend only a minimal amount of time with him. They’re trying to develop a fairly large ensemble, which is a tall order at the best of times, and probably impossible in a 90-minute movie. Instead, we spend most of our time in the apartment of Brody and Guch, or their next door neighbor Jesus, as they alternately rejoice, agonize, argue about, scheme over and search for the cocaine. And sometimes just pass the time with video games and hookers. Which is all about as entertaining as it sounds.
It’s supposed to be one of those films where the characters’ telling interactions draw the viewer in, in lieu of a plot (which tends to occur in the background), but that sort of thing takes an ability with dialogue and pace Cobbs doesn’t seem to have. It really could have used a bit more timing and presence. There’s some to be had from Mos Def, in the two whole scenes he appears in, but most of what little there is has to come from Omari Hardwick’s Shavoo, the drug dealer trying to buy the cocaine who is having something of a mid-life crisis about his chosen profession. He offers the film its only real moments of humanity and his interactions with bodyguard Buddy (Darius McCrary) are both engaging and sadly nihilistic. There is some genuine drama to be had there, but Hardwick isn’t up to carrying the entire film, and isn’t really given the chance. And barring Yasmin Deliz’s eye candy, there isn’t much else really interesting about it.
Anyone who thinks they’re in for some sort of light crime comedy with Faison and Mos Def dealing with drug dealers and gangsters is in for a supreme disappointment. Mostly it’s Epps and Hardwick and Harris being paranoid in the room. “Next Day Air” is well-intentioned but ill-thought, an amateur work by a first time filmmaking team trying to make the kind of film they like to watch, but ignorant of what makes those kinds of films work.