Next Day Air (R) **

By Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald

A word of advice to all aspiring cocaine dealers: When planning to transport your illegal wares across state lines, never, under any circumstances, ship your goods via FedEx.

They could end up in the hands of someone like Leo (Donald Faison), the protagonist of Next Day Air, a stoner deliveryman for a UPS-like company who is too zonked out to notice he’s dropped off his latest package at the wrong apartment.

The recipients (Mike Epps and Wood Harris), a pair of would-be criminals so inept they only managed to steal a bank’s security videotapes during their last job, are delighted to discover the box contains neatly wrapped packages of pure cocaine, ready to be sold to their neighborhood kingpin.

But their neighbor across the hall (Cisco Reyes), whose life depends on receiving the package and distributing its contents, doesn’t realize his goods lie just a few feet away and heads out after Leo, assuming the deliveryman has stolen the drugs for himself.

What ensues is an uneasy mix of farcical slapstick and comedy of errors with a violent, blood-soaked tale of inner-city crime. Director Benny Boom, a music video veteran making his feature film debut, shoots everything in a dark, dingy style that suggests either a low budget or an inexperienced cinematographer.

The movie also feels claustrophobic, most of it unfolding inside drab apartments. The performers are game, especially Faison, far removed from the PG-rated territory of TV’s Scrubs, and the bumbling duo of Epps and Harris, who turn their layabout losers into surprisingly likable antiheroes. It would be a mistake, though, to grow too attached to any of the characters in Next Day Air. The movie might use the drug trade as a source of laughs, but it also reminds you that crime doesn’t pay — unless you happen to drive a delivery truck, in which case you sometimes get lucky.

Cast: Donald Faison, Mike Epps, Wood Harris, Omari Hardwick, Emilio Rivera, Darius McCrary, Cisco Reyes, Mos Def.

Director: Benny Boom.

Screenwriter: Blair Cobbs.

Producers: Scott Aronson, Inny Clemons.

A Summit Entertainment release. Running time: 91 minutes. Vulgar language, violence, gore, brief nudity, sexual situations, drug use, adult themes. Playing at area theaters.


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