By Roger Moore
There’s no honor among thieves in “Next Day Air,” a dopey, bloody and downbeat “Black Pineapple Express.” The laughs come easily enough. But the violence and grim finale drag this coke-deal-gone-wrong comedy into a hole it can’t giggle its way out of.
Inept thieves smoke weed, play video games and argue over who was supposed to do what at their last botched bank job. An equally stoned delivery man (Donald Faison of TV’s “Scrubs”) misreads the numbers on their door. He leaves them a box stuffed with cakes of cocaine, coke destined for the Hispanic dealer (Cisco Reyes) who lives across the hall, and next thing you know “Next Day Air” is off.
Mike Epps and Wood Harris are cousins who believe the coke “came from God.” They plot how to spend the money they’re going to make, grand plans for an Escalade and hookers Brody (Epps) hires by phone.
“Do something strange for a little piece ’a change,” he coos.
Guch (Harris) is more paranoid. And with a distraught Jesus across the way looking for his lost delivery, correcting everybody’s pronunciation of his name (”That’s GEE-zus!”), fighting with his shrill Nuyorican girlfriend (Yasmin Deliz, a stitch), Guch has every right to be scared.
In this corner of Philly everybody’s related to some other manner of crook, and Brody’s cousin (Omari Hardwick) is the hook-up for unloading a lot of blow. Can the clumsy thieves trust the untrusting drug dealer? Will the Mexican drug lord (Emilio Rivera, creepy) put it all together and track them down? Or will he take out his frustration on poor Jesus?
And what about the doper delivery dude? Will he and his steal-from-his-own-delivery-truck pal (Mos Def) get theirs?
“Next Day Air” was cast like a comedy with funny roles for Debbie Allen, Darius McCrary and Malik Barnhardt, who plays the robbers’ blissfully sleepy roommate. Much of the violence is comic — threats that Jesus makes every time somebody calls him “hay-Zeus,” practicing waving a gun in the mirror. But all these drugs, all these thugs and all those guns are going to wind up making a bloody mess, sooner or later.
Director Benny Boom saves that “mess” for the grim, message-slapped-on third act of what had been a gritty, trippy, under-written comedy. Boom kills his own buzz.