Daylight’s End has been on the radar of action genre fans for some time, particular those familiar with the key players. The movie is helmed by director William Kaufman (Sinners and Saints, One in the Chamber), writer Chad Law (Six Bullets, Close Range) and leading man Johnny Strong (Sinners and Saints, Black Hawk Down). They are an exceptionally talented team with a great body of work between them. What’s crucial to note is that they really come across as old school renegade filmmakers, operating outside the softer, commercial or family friendly parameters. In short, they stick to their guns and do their own thing.
This story is set in the years following a mysterious plague which turned people into murderous, blood-thirsty vampiric creature. Survivors are scarce and divided and when a drifter named Rourke (Strong) saves a woman (Chelsea Edmundson) from a violent gang, he joins her group of survivors holed up in a Dallas police station where they form a plan to make one last stand and escape the city. Rather than reinventing the wheel, the story feels like love letter to classic titles like Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Assault on Precinct 13, paying homage and incorporating a few surprises along the way.
One of the most striking elements of the film are the visuals. Kaufman has built a reputation creating slick, cinematic and equally gritty character-driven action with a definite air of coolness. This is made much easier when the star is Johnny Strong, who has to be one of the most underrated leading men in movies today. It would be great to see him more but honestly I respect how selective he is with his work (see his interview in my book Life of Action). The pair first teamed up on 2010’s Sinners and Saints, one of my favourite action thrillers of recent years, and long may the collaborations continue.
Shot in the sweltering heat of Dallas, Texas, there was reportedly no air conditioning on location in the old police station so the oppressive, sweaty atmosphere on screen is truly authentic. This adds to the intensity and makes the city an integral supporting character of the story.
As would be expected, we witness some truly awesome ballistic action, with plenty of gritty and realistic gun fights, knife fights, explosions and gore. This team always handles fight and gun action exceptionally well and the stunt team did a very impressive job. Considering the modest budget, they shoot the action better than many bigger movies.
The performances are very solid, with Strong bringing his usual badass demeanour to the table but with an added vulnerable streak explained through his backstory. Screen legend Lance Henriksen is on top form as veteran cop Frank Hill, leader of the survivors, and Louis Mandylor is excellent as his son, Ethan. I’ve been a fan of him for many years, since TV’s Martial Law, The Quest and even Kaufman’s Sinners and Saints. UFC veteran Krzysztof Soszynski even plays the creature boss in an interesting turn and is pretty damn terrifying. The entire supporting cast is strong with an interesting spread of characters throughout.
Another notable point, as before with Sinners and Saints, is that Johnny Strong once again handles the music and scoring. He’s an experienced (multi-disciplined) musician, having released several records and been signed to two major labels. This time he channels haunting and eerie, ambient music in the quieter moments, before throwing up a roaring distorted guitar and pounding percussion when the intensity cranks up. It’s a great soundtrack and I’d honestly watch it again just to pay attention to those changes.
As I often say, my tastes and interests fall pretty much outside the mainstream. I’m genuinely more interested in what these guys are doing next over some totally unnecessary Hollywood remake nobody asked for. So for true action fans, horror buffs or anyone who still loves an authentic, exciting movie experience by great artists, Daylight’s End is a real blast.
Daylight’s End is out now in US Cinemas and On Demand. Other territories to follow.