A shipment of cocaine delivered to the wrong address touches off a conflict between drug runners and opportunistic gangstas in Next Day Air, an incessantly talky, inert crime film that’s like a hip-hop poseur, all swagger and mouth, but with no real affinity for the grittiness of thug life. Director Benny Boom, whose moniker belies his apparent preference for low-threat confrontations and limp comedic hijinks over more explosive fare, accomplishes little here other than replicating the sheen and shallowness of music video fantasies from hip-hop’s Scarface-rediscovery era, with upward mobility being exclusively a question of crime, drugs accepted as amoral lifestyle accessories, and characters reduced to one-dimensional ethnic cartoons.
When an expected package of yayo fails to arrive at his Philly apartment on schedule, diminutive Puerto Rican drug mule Jesus (Cisco Reyes) begins receiving threatening calls from the Cali-based bigwig who sent the dope (a Danny Trejo-looking tough guy) and bitchy advice from gorgeous girlfriend Chita (Jada Pinkett-lookalike Yasmin Deliz), spurring him to semi-comic attempts at manning up that include donning gold chains and jabbing pistols at himself in the mirror in order to work up the cojones to go out and track down the missing shipment. Unbeknownst to Jesus, his shipment was mistakenly dropped at the apartment directly across the hall and immediately snatched by resident hoods Brody (Mike Epps) and Guch (Wood Harris), who plan to flip their windfall for cash and soon begin inviting underworld buyers into their crib for browsing. Caught in the middle of this True Romance-style accumulation of bad guys is pot-loving delivery man Leo (Donald Faison), whose perpetual high caused the initial delivery error and who is the source of most of the film’s attempted humor, which amounts to extended takes of him puffing on joints and making goofy faces while driving his delivery truck, cowering sheepishly before his no-nonsense mama, and chilling with co-worker Mos Def, doing someone a favor by cameoing here.
Interspersed between the moronic, pot-is-inherently-funny comedy bits and flaccid gangland showdowns, which mostly involve sideways-pointed guns and tough talk, is a smattering of filler material, ranging from extended aerial pans of the city to slow-mo montages of drug den nirvana and Asian hookers stripping in living rooms. All of which has the familiar participatory vibe of music videos, beckoning the audience to uncork a bottle of Cristal and join the party, but the execution is invariably simplistic and the effect is flavorless. A late attempt to punch up the action with a confusing, poorly-composed Mexican standoff is too little, too late and marks Boom as a directorial bust, unable to deliver a film that’s at least watchable, despite having copious amounts of girls and guns, which everyone knows is all you need.