Review Index


The Russian NIGHT WATCH (2004) was an insanely energetic, CGI-packed horror/fantasy blast, and this 2006 sequel provides more of the same.

The Package
     NIGHT WATCH/NOCHOI DOZOR is widely hailed as the first-ever Russian blockbuster, and DAY WATCH/DNEVNOY DOZOR was an even bigger hit.  Based on a trilogy of novels by Sergei Lukyanenko (which like the films have enjoyed a measure of success in the West), these two movies, both directed by Timur Bekmambetov, concern a race of “Others” (supernaturally endowed humans) who are divided into Light and Dark factions.  The Light Others hold a Night Watch to keep the Dark Others at bay, while the latter have a Day Watch. 
     Lukyanenko’s novel DAY WATCH (published in English in 2007) viewed the action from the point of view of the Dark Others.  The filmmakers, however, jettisoned that idea, giving us a straight continuation of the first film, which was very much focused on the Lights.
     These films, by the way, are supposed to be the start of a trilogy, but to date TWILIGHT WATCH, the proposed third film, has yet to be filmed.  It seems Bekmambetov is now permanently ensconced in Hollywood, having directed the successful Angelina Jolie vehicle WANTED and now attached to many more expensive productions. 

The Story 
     The action revolves around a piece of magic chalk first introduced several millennia ago by Asian monks--and now, in modern-day Moscow both the Light and Dark Others are after the chalk. 
     Among the former is Anton, a longtime Night Watchman who at the end of the previous film learned that Yegor, a young boy he’d been protecting, was in fact his own son.  But Yegor has since joined the Dark Others, and there doesn’t seem to be anything Anton can do about it.
     Anton has his hands full with Svetlana, a once normal person who’s now a fledgling Light Other.  She’s showing remarkable acuity, however, with an ability to enter advanced levels of the Gloom, an alternate reality accessible only by Others.
     There’s also Alicia, a Dark Other who, through a succession of events too complicated (and incoherent) to go into here, ends up with the magic chalk.  In the meantime Anton is turned into a woman so as not to be recognizable by his enemies, and as such romances Svetlana.
     It all ends up at a birthday party held for Yegor in the Dark Others’ headquarters.  Alicia is there, and so is Anton...and before long Svetlana shows up for an apocalyptic showdown, with mass bloodletting, earthquakes and explosions in store. 

The Direction 
     If you’ve seen NIGHT WATCH you’ll know what to expect.  If you haven’t, you’ll be totally perplexed by this sequel, as the extremely complex back story and underlying mythology aren’t covered.  Truth be told there’s no time for either, as the pacing is incredibly frantic and the narrative jam-packed.  Even with a near-2˝ hour running time it’s clear that much was left out, as there are many puzzling and incoherent elements.  It’s definitely a blink-and-you’ll-miss-something piece of work that still finds plenty of time for an abundance of flash.
     This is primarily why the film works as well as it does: it’s extremely fun to watch.  In this respect DAY WATCH is much like an American-made blockbuster of the type Timur Bekmambetov now directs, with a wobbly and underdeveloped story totally overshadowed by a giddy wave of carnage and special effects.  And it’s even wilder, flashier and more overpoweringly commercial than NIGHT WATCH.  Together these films make up something unique in international cinema: a saga that very nearly succeeds in beating Hollywood at its own game. 

Vital Statistics 

Fox Searchlight Pictures/Channel One Russia 

Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Producers: Konstantin Ernst, Anatoly Maximov|
Screenplay: Sergei Lukyanenko, Timur Bekmambetov, Alexander Talal
Cinematography: Sergei Trofimov
Editing: Dmitri Kiselev
Cast: Konstantin Khabensky, Mariya Poroshina, Vladimir Menshov, Galina Tyunina, Viktor Verzhbitsky, Zhanna Friske, Dmitry Martynov, Valeri Zolotukhin, Aleksei Chadov