Night Watch Movie Review

Posted by: The Dude

Night Watch is a movie that most people have already made up their minds about whether or not they want to see. With that in my mind, I must say it exceeded my expectations. Actually, my initial response couldn't quite be published, because it would resemble something like "HOLY $#@&! THIS MOVIE ROCKED MY #%(@*@&$^ #^@%#! RIGHT OFF MY @#*& SACK!"

For those who are not aware, Night Watch is the first part of a Russian sci-fi series of novels, written by co-screenwriter Sergei Lukyanenko. The film is directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who is the other screenwriter. The film is the set up of a trilogy that tackles that oh so familiar terrain of the battle between good and evil. In this case, they're called the forces of light and the forces of dark.

The movie opens with a grand battle scene, hundreds of years in the past. Said forces of light and dark do battle on a bridge. Many are slaughtered, as the armies are evenly matched. The battle comes to a literal halt, as the leaders discuss a truce, establishing the rules for the souls of mankind. The basic tenet being, man must freely choose which side he shall fight for, light or dark, and can not be influenced by the forces themselves.

There is a group of humans who possess supernatural powers (shape shifting, ESP, vampirism, etc.) known as "Others" who comprise the Night Watch and Day Watch. (Night Watch, despite night in the title, are the forces of light, constantly WATCHing the DARK forces, and vice versa). They keep a nice yin and yang balance throughout the ages, making sure no one truly wins out  in the battle of souls.

All this is in the first five minutes of the film. There's a lot of prologue to the main story. Or stories, really. There is honestly a lot going on in this film. Almost too much, at times, and I found myself a bit confused, hoping that it would make sense in the end. I know this much:  Anton (played by Konstantin Khabensky, and who in certain angles made me think of Hugh Jackman) is the main character, a "seer" who is introduced to the world of Night Watch when he tries to get revenge on his wife for leaving him. He joins the Night Watch, and uses his gift to hunt down vampires. (Naturally this is achieved by the drinking of blood). He can also enter "The Gloom" which I'm pretty sure was a Netherworld that can be seen only in reflection. He tracks a vampire who is "calling" a young boy to her. This sets into motion a series of events that includes a cursed woman, some genuinely frightening moments, a grand rooftop battle, and the ubiquitous prophecy. I'll give the film this: whereas most other sci-fi/horror films suffer from half a story, this movie has almost too much of a story. Almost.

The film works very well. I loved every minute of it. There's a fair amount of dark humor in it that works well right when the movie needs some levity. The insane visuals reminded me of early Juenet/Caro films like Delicatessen, with a touch of Guy Ritchie. And yet, I never felt like they distracted from the story or were there for the sake of looking good. The characters are fun:  The shape shifter "Bear" was a personal favorite, as is Olga, Anton's owl/partner. And Zavulon, the leader of the Day Watch, is a nice presence, and his sword in unbelievably badass. (You'll see what I mean.)  Even the subtitles are having fun in this film. Seriously. Some are colored crimson and fade like blood in water. Sometimes, they fade in and out like a character who's fading in and out of life. Sometimes they're flown back with a character into the wall.

I can't praise the film enough. Fans of the genre will definitely grow to love it's unique charms, and casual viewers will get a bigger kick out of it than most of the bigger blockbusters released this summer, if they're willing to spend some time actually reading subtitles. (But, see previous statement about how those are fun) The movie is just a good time, and I can not wait for the next two parts of the film, which this story sets up very well. Night Watch is the film that "Underworld" desperately wanted to be.

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