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