Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor)

| Thursday, April 7, 2011
Russian Poster
US Poster
Danish Poster
2005UR114 minutes
Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Valeri Zolotukhin, Mariya Poroshina, Galina Tyunina, Yuri Kutsenko
Timur Bekmambetov
Foreign, Foreign Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Foreign Action & Adventure, Russia, Foreign Languages
This movie is:
Violent, Mind-bending

This first installment of the trilogy based on the best-selling science fiction novels by Russian writer Sergei Lukyanenko plays upon the tension between light and dark, pitting the superhuman Night Watch patrollers (known as the "Others") against the shadowed forces of the night. But the biggest fear of all stems from the lines of an ancient prophecy, which warns of a renegade Other whose betrayal could bring chaos to the land.

Movies in the US of this genre have gotten so bad I don’t even want to see them any more. This is Van Helsing, Kill Bill/Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, comic movies, Matrix type movies, zombie movies, etc… done right. Its style is slick and in your face, without coming off as cheesy and "Hollywood". It’s over the top and dark, telling the classic tale of good and bad fighting each other. I love the over exposed film, fast cuts, gritty subject, gore and over styled to the point of bringing reality to a stand still used in this film. At times the story is difficult to follow, which maybe because it is such a visual feast that you miss some of the subtitles. I was fortunate enough to get a Russian released copy of the movie; however I will also see when it’s limited release in US theaters for the full big screen effect. This is supposed to be the first part in a three part serious and I personally can’t wait too see the rest. This is for everyone disappointed in big budget Hollywood Sci-Fi Horror Action movies that are “kiddied up” to get a PG-13 rating for maximum potential for audiences and thus maximum profit. If the opening 15 minutes of this movie, which got me instantly hooked does not get your blood pumping for more, shut it off, it’s not for you.

"Night Watch" is one of the most expensive Russian film production ever and enjoyed in it's home country the best movie start of all time (15 million US $ in its first month), but is it any good? Yes and no. First of all, let me say that this is a special effects film and even though for a Russian production this has a comparatively huge budget for CGI and makeup f/x, the results are decidedly mixed. Most of it is OK, with single drops into the ridiculous. The direction by former ad director Bekmambetov is stylish enough, without forgetting to portray the grittiness of Russian life circumstances. The actors are competent, though leading man Konstantin Khabensky is lacking in the charisma department. The story ultimately is the measurement of what is good and bad about "Night Watch" and it does contain both. The novels, on which this film is based, are pretty complex, making this the first in a trilogy, with "Day Watch" and "Dusk Watch" to come. The presented battle between good and evil supernatural beings is reminiscent of other genre efforts, but unlike, say "Underworld", "Night Watch" takes its elements seriously. This is a mixed blessing. On one hand you have a real mythology underlying events instead of a starting point for subway machine gun battles of longhairs, on the other there is no humor in the picture and the reverent and dead serious tone in spite of the bizarre events is sometimes overdone and a little laughable.

Dark, Light, and Others.
The idea of supernatural police forces observing and checking each other is a nice one, as are numerous quirky little ideas, but overall there are two lame stereotypes for every good and fresh idea. Most disappointing is the double climax letdown. The 'grudge' storyline is extremely well built up with lots of suspense but ends with a whimper instead of a bang. The climax of the 'kid' storyline is muddled as well, but does offer a nice full circle resolution to one aspect of the story and features an interesting cliffhanger.


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