Movie Reviews

Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor)

Reviewed by: Edward Douglas
Rating: 6 out of 10
Movie Details: View here

Cast:
Konstantin Khabensky as Anton Gorodetsky
Vladimir Menshov as Gesser
Valeri Zolotukhin as Vampire, Kostya's father
Mariya Poroshina as Svetlana
Galina Tyunina as Olga, sorceress (owl)
Yuri Kutsenko as Ignat Aleksei Chadov as Kostya
Zhanna Friske as Alisa Donnikova
Ilya Lagutenko as Vampire Andrei
Viktor Verzhbitsky as Zavulon
Rimma Markova as Darya Schultz, witch
Mariya Mironova as Yegor's mother
Aleksei Maklakov as Semyon
Aleksandr Samojlenko as Ilya, mage-transformer
Dmitry Martynov as Yegor, Anton's son (as Dmitri Martynov)

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov

Summary:
There’s a lot of cool ideas and visuals in this amazing looking action-thriller… but good luck trying to figure out what’s going on.

Story:
Anton (Konstantine Khabensky) thought his life was just like everybody else’s until he learned that he actually was an “Other”, descended from a race of beings separated into two factions that have been caught in a truce for centuries after their last great war. As a member of the Night Watch, Anton come across a number of abnormal circumstances during what should be a routine mission, which makes it clearer that the war between the Light and Dark Others is about to be waged once again.

Analysis:
The first time I heard of Timur Bekmambetov’s “Night Watch” was when I saw a television news piece about it becoming the highest opening Russian movie ever in the history of the Russian box office. That was over a year and a half ago, and the sequel “Day Watch,” the middle of a planned trilogy, opened in Russia earlier this year to similar success. Most Americans won’t be aware of the novel by Sergey Lukyanenko on which these movies are based, but Bekmambetov is obviously attempting to turn it into his country’s answer to “The Matrix” or Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.”

Like Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy, the film begins with a smaller scale battle, as a voiceover tells us about the two factions of “Others”—light and dark—who fought a fateful final war, before forging a truce. Centuries later, a fresh-faced young man named Anton is visiting a witch to try to get his wife back. Next thing we know, there are people appearing from out of nowhere to prevent this witch from putting a curse on Anton’s wife’s new baby, and there are Russian dolls running around her kitchen on spidery legs.

Apparently, Anton is actually one of these “Others” and years later, he has joined the Night Watch, the members from the Light side of the battle, who are trying to prevent the Dark Others from breaking their truce. Anton’s mission is to find a couple Day Watch vampires, who are luring a young boy to be their dinner, and Anton must drink blood himself in order to find them, something that should go over well with the Goth set. Then there’s the “virgin,” a pretty blonde woman Anton sees on a train, who has created a vortex of swirling birds over her apartment building, and something called “The Gloom,” which Others are able to use to get in and out of our reality.

True, a lot of it sounds silly when you’re trying to explain it, maybe because it’s not really explained that well in the movie, but it seems like we’ve seen this type of dark vs. light battle already both in the “Blade” trilogy and the two “Underworld’ movies. The fact that the Russian novel preceded most of the movies does save it from being a mere rip-off and it allows Bekmambetov—try saying that three times fast—to flex his special effects muscles, creating an exciting visual film with a fraction of the budget of the American counterparts. Cool things include the transformation of some of the Others into their animal form, and cool ideas like seeing the screw from an airplane come loose and fall all the way to Earth, followed closely by the camera, to land in a cup of coffee. It’s pretty strange, but there’s certainly a creative vision behind it that gives it a very unique look. Even the movie’s subtitles are clever in the way that they blend into the visuals as if they belong there.

The acting is just okay, as is the writing, but as is often the case, it’s more about the action and effects, which far too often takes a precedence over telling a cohesive story, because it tends to go off on a tangent, as various character show up and then disappear. For most of the film, you’re assuming that the virgin will end up being Anton’s love interest, but her story is resolved and that shrugged off without much ado, as Anton gets into a showdown with Zavulon, the leader of the Day Watch, over the soul of his son, who has to decide which side to join in the battle. Regardless of the confusing way it gets there, the cliffhanger ending is intriguing enough that you’ll want to return to see where the story goes from there. One can hope that Bekmambetov’s abilities as a storyteller and director will be made more prevalent with the sequel.

The Bottom Line:
Although director Timur Bekmambetov shows promise with his debut feature, the story gets a bit too convoluted with his desire to thrown in lots of cool action and special effects. Those who enjoy movies like “The Matrix,” “Underworld” and the “Blade” movies should appreciate his vision, although things will probably make more sense after the sequel.

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