Night Watch (aka Nochnoi Dozor)
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Year: 2004
TRT: 1:54

Not too many big-budget films come out of Russia, so when one comes out with a pretty cool premise, fuck yeah, I'll give it a shot. There's been quite a polarity in opinions on this flick. Sure it's got some issues but none warranting some of the pure vile and hatred aimed at it. C'mon people, save that shit for the next Ben Stiller flick, alright? Maybe it's because people think this is supposed to be Russia's answer to such grand Hollywood opuses like Van Helsing and Underworld. I feel sorry for people in other countries who think that's the best we can do. I feel even more sorry for the pathetic bastards in this country who think those are fine cinematic contributions. I'm sorry to say that Night Watch tends to be driven a little more by that whole thing called a "plot," as confusing as it may be at times. And right off the bat it's known this is the first part of a trilogy, so don't expect every thread to be wrapped up nice and tidy by the time the credits roll. There's resolution, a bit hackneyed I think, on part of it. Even most of it. But there's a long-term story being told here, so here's part one.

Apart from the human race are the "Others," basically people who possess supernatural powers of all types (like Seers and Shapeshifters). They are divided into that easily simplistic dichotomy of Good and Evil. In order to preserve everyone, humans and Others alike, a truce was called a couple centuries back. But with Light and Dark, there's many shades of grey that go along with it, and subtle vying for dominance has eventually led to present-day Moscow, where quite literally all hell could break loose when boundaries are pushed just a little too far.

I'd say the biggest negative factor this movie has going against it is the inclusion of the 'episodic' plotline that's dealt with and wrapped up by the end of the movie (as opposed to the overall arc that spans all 3 films). It kind of delves into the nature of the Others, but also is kind of lame considering. Can't say how it relates to the source material, haven't learned Russian yet. There's a couple of big battle sequences where hand-held camerawork and frenetic editing cuts do it much more harm than good. But that takes up relatively little screen time, and the rest plays out in a fairly linear, dramatic fashion. Sure there's some glossy CG thrown in here and there to keep the ADD kids happy, but it's more about the story and the characters. Nice utilization of subtitles in key scenes makes it play out more like an animated graphic novel as well. Overall, a decent-enough movie that instead of relying on established mythologies already beaten to death instead creates a promising new fractured fantasy worldview.

Great Scene: Slipping into the Gloom to save the kid.

DVD Notes: Still in theaters as of this review time. But you can check out the entire movie edited down to 2 minutes or somesuch (literally, the entire movie) online at Apple. Or just watch the trailer. That's a bit fucked up too, though, since they rely completely on visuals + voiceover so people won't suspect that all-dreaded bane of existence known as "subtitles." Definitely a pleasure to catch on the big screen.