I went to see
this movie for two reasons. Cool swag and a free meal. I
have no shame and I admit it. Let’s face it, it’s
not like Fanyboyplanet.com is actually paying me for this
review. But here’s the thing, I have to admit that
unexpectedly I actually enjoyed the movie. So if you’re
still with me, let’s take a few minutes to try and
figure out why.
is a sequel to the aptly titled Russian film, Night
Watch (shades of George Romero) set in modern day Russia.
What I was able to discern about the first movie from this
film’s prologue is that hundreds of years ago the
forces of Light and Darkness faced each other in a devastating
battle fought on a bridge.
Why a bridge?
I have no idea, but it looked to be one fierce battle. The
story goes on to tell us that in order to avoid total slaughter,
their leaders agreed to an armistice. Ever since, the forces
of Light have governed the day while those of the Dark (who
can’t see this coming?) belong to the night.
Cut to modern
day Moscow, where living amongst normal humans we find these
"Others" who possess various supernatural powers,
i.e. witches, sorcerers and vampires, and who miraculously
appear to co-exist in harmony with one another. But, and
here’s the hook, when one side steps out of line (and
by one side I mean the Dark “Others”) the "Night
Watch" from the forces of Light is dispatched to subdue
Okay, the premise
might seem over used, good versus evil, but here it’s
played out against a unique background. And while on occasion
some of the motives are a bit unclear, amidst the conflict
of the story is a gentle understated understanding between
mortal enemies which is a refreshing change from American
blockbusters like Spiderman or Grindhouse.
There are no over-the-top, comic bookish villains or heroes
in this film.
This brings us
to Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabensky) of the Day Watch.
The prologue goes on to say something about Anton hiring
a witch to kill his wife who was carrying their unborn child
but something went wrong: the apocalypse nearly happened
and… that’s where they lost me. I mean, come
on… it was subtitled for crying out loud and I can
only read so fast in the dark.
So now you know
as much as I did going into the film, unless you’ve
actually seen the first one, in which case feel free to
barrage me with gigabytes of hate mail if you feel I’ve
somehow offended you or the movie.
like Alexander Nevsky, only with monsters...
is based on the novel by Sergie Lukyanenko and Vladimir
Casiliev, who also wrote its prequel Night Watch
and sequel Dusk Watch (which I assume will be coming
to a theater near you sometime in the year 2009). Night
Watch was originally released in Russia in the summer
of 2004 and became an instant hit, breaking all film records
in post Soviet history, out-grossing Lord of The Rings:
The Return of The King and Spider-Man 2 at
the Russian Box-office.
Bekmambetov, who also directed the first installment of
the franchise, brings a very unmistakable Russian-ness to
the movie. Picking up several years after Night Watch
ended, we quickly learn that the truce between the Light
and Dark is reaching a tragic ending. Each side has gained
a powerful “Great Other” who are headed for
a clash with one another. The problem is that it has been
prophesized that if these two powerful, yet opposite beings
should ever meet, it would bring about the end of the world.
Which is a nice twist because typically you’d expect
the plot to bring them together so that both sides can be
united through love. No such luck here.
On the side of
Darkness stands Anton’s son who has been raised by
Geser (Vladimir Menshov), the leader of the Dark (I have
no idea why, I’m sure it was covered in the first
film) and on the side of Light is the sexy Sveltana (Maria
Poroshina), Anton’s rookie partner on the Day Watch
and love interest. And as if that didn’t put Anton
in enough of a pickle, he’s also on the run after
having been accused of murdering a Dark “Other.”
Which leads us to one of the best moments in the movie,
a very sexy heterosexual love scene between two very attractive
women. To explain further would be to give away a great
plot twist, so you’ll just have to take my word for
it and see for yourself. The only thing that can save Anton
from the chaos his life is mired in is the ancient “Chalk
of Fate” (I kid you not), which was lost hundreds
of years ago. Pretty good, huh?
movie you can sense that Timur has been influenced by filmmakers
like James Cameron, Ridley Scott and The Wachowski Brothers,
which works in his favor, but there’s also an undeniable
originality to it that makes it uniquely his own. Alluring
and upsetting at the same time, this is a Russia I’ve
never seen or envisioned before.
My press notes
tell me that the film is a dazzling mix of state-of-the-art
visual effects, amazing action sequences and nail biting
horror set in a contemporary Moscow. I agree with two thirds
of that statement. The movie is definitely dazzling, if
not a tad dark. The action sequences are first rate and
the acting is superb. What it’s not is horrific, which
is alright with me because I expected to encounter a blood
bath going in and instead found a very enjoyable fast paced
fantasy/action film from the moment it opened with better
than expected special effects.
The biggest problem
with the film is it suffers from wanting badly to be on
par with The Matrix but never rises to that level
of storytelling. It also feels vaguely familiar of the Underworld
franchise minus any werewolves. Having said that, the ending
is a real visual treat as all of Moscow faces annihilation.
at times, my only flaw with the story is that there’s
no motive given as to why Geser wants to bring together
the two “Great Others” and cause the end the
world. Unless it somehow ties into what happened in the
first movie, which as I covered up front, I haven’t
goes right on Jeffrey's bomber jacket...
And that brings
me back to the reason I went to see this film in the first
place. The Swag. As I made my way out of the theater, the
good folks from Fox Searchlight’s publicity department
kindly handed me a goody bag containing a t-shirt from the
film, a Day Watch patch, a couple of stickers,
a press kit and (this was the best goody in the bag) a DVD
of the first film, which I’m now looking forward to
Oh yeah, they
also pointed me to a table where I was served a nice hot
meal and all the alcohol I could drink.
So, all in all,
not a bad night at the movies.
Berman lives in LA and is a mildly successful screenwriter
that you've never heard of. But with a little luck by this
time next year you just might.
offer up as well that you never know when we can arrange
for our writers to get cool swag.