Smoke weed, not crack, and use FedEx, not “Next Day Air.” Such are the lessons of this low-grade entertainment about a bumbling courier who mistakenly delivers a large stash of coke to two bumbling criminals, angering a bumbling drug dealer and yielding predictably dire consequences in an altogether bumbling excuse for an action-comedy. Genre fans in need of a quick fix should line up for the Summit Entertainment release in urban markets before a speedy homevid dropoff.

Scripted by Blair Cobbs, the blood-spattered Philadelphia story begins with pothead deliveryman Leo (Donald Faison, who co-produced) trying to calm down a roomful of gun-waving gang types. In by-now-passe Tarantino-ish fashion, the pic leaps back in time to two days earlier, when a glumly stoned Leo delivers a large package to the wrong apartment.

That would be the crash-pad of hopelessly inept bank robbers Guch (Wood Harris, who played a much more layered and compelling crook on “The Wire”) and Brody (Mike Epps), who think they’ve hit the jackpot when they open the box and find 10 kilos of premium cocaine inside. The two wannabe hoods make plans to sell the coke to Brody’s cousin Shavoo (Omari Hardwick) and his nameless associate (Darius McCrary), while the drugs’ intended recipient, Puerto Rican dealer Jesus (Cisco Reyes), goes on the warpath in search of his missing package.

There are only so many fresh ways to spin this scenario, and none of them are revealed in “Next Day Air,” which could charitably be praised as not too long (at 84 minutes) and no more painful to endure than any of the multiple homicides committed during the exceptionally gruesome finale.

The violent climax feels weirdly out of touch with the rest of the story, which, as directed by first-timer Benny Boom (a musicvideo vet), has an attention span to match Leo’s. Staggering aimlessly along as though in its own drug-induced haze, the tonally erratic pic veers between amusingly flip banter and spasmodic flashbacks to the characters’ past misdeeds. Neither vein pushes any of these lowlifes and underachievers beyond stereotype; that they’re inhabited capably enough by the actors suggests not authenticity so much as tired routine.

As could be expected, Mos Def drolly pockets the picture with his brief, amusing appearance as Leo’s fellow courier. And while women have little to do here besides strip and make out, Dominican-Colombian bombshell Yasmin Deliz leaves a sultry impression as Jesus’ mouthy moll, and Debbie Allen gets a few laughs as Leo’s mouthy mom.

Lensing looks sludgy and cheap, which suits the characters and setting; editing is punchy but not too abrasive. Soundtrack is on the slim side but includes songs performed by Robin Thicke and 50 Cent, both of whom Boom has directed in videos.

Next Day Air

  • Production: A Summit Entertainment release presented with Melee Entertainment of a Melee Entertainment production in association with A-Mark Entertainment, Rock Capital Films, Secret Society Films. Produced by Scott Aronson, Inny Clemons. Executive producers, Bryan Turner, Shaun Livingston, Steve Markoff, Bruce McNall, Steve Belser. Co-producers, Donald Faison, Melina Kevorkian, Gerald Rawles. Directed by Benny Boom. Screenplay, Blair Cobbs.
  • Crew: Camera (color), David Armstrong; editor, David Checel; music, the Elements; music supervisor, Paul Stewart; production designer, Bruton Jones; set designer, Anna DeCoster; set decorator, Elizabeth "Lulu" Stewart; costume designer, Rita McGhee; sound (Dolby Digital), Michael C. Moore, Vera Campbell; re-recording mixers, James Young, Chris Reynolds; visual effects supervisor, Joe Russo; visual effects, 23D Films; special effects coordinator, Tom Ceglia; stunt coordinator, Julius LeFlore; line producer, Michael Williams; assistant director, Nicholas Lee; casting, Robi Reed. Reviewed at Mann Chinese 6, Los Angeles, May 6, 2009. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 84 MIN.
  • With: Leo - Donald Faison Brody - Mike Epps Guch - Wood Harris Shavoo - Omari Hardwick Buddy - Darius McCrary Jesus - Cisco Reyes Ms. Jackson - Debbie Allen Eric - Mos Def Bodega - Emilio Rivera Rhino - Lobo Sebastian Hassie - Malik Barnhardt Ivy - Lauren London Chita - Yasmin Deliz