Saturday 16 February 2008

Day Watch (2006)

Saturday 16 February 2008
Writer & Director: Timur Bekmambetov (based on the novels by Sergei Lukyanenko)

: Konstantin Khabensky (Anton), Mariya Poroshin (Svetlana), Vladimir Menshov (Geser), Galina Tyunina (Olga), Viktor Verzhbitsky (Zavulon), Zhanna Friske (Alisa), Dmitry Martynov (Yegor), Aleksei Chadov (Kostya), Valeri Zolutukhin (Kostya's Father), Nurzhuman Ikhtymbayev (Zoar), Aleksei Maklatov (Semyon), Alesksandr Samojlenko (Bear), Yuri Kutsenko (Ignat), Irina Yakovleva (Galina Rogova) & Yegor Dronov (Tolik)

The forces of Good and Evil have their truce tested, after "Dark Ones" are killed and a "Light One" is framed for their deaths....

There's no doubt Timur Bekmambetov is an incredibly gifted filmmaker, blessed with an enviable eye for spectacle, but I still can't help feeling incredibly disconnected and confused by his Night Watch/Day Watch movies.

Day Watch continues years after the end of the first film, where supernatural humans (divided into "Dark Ones" and "Light Ones") currently have a truce: resulting in the Night Watch and Day Watch, with each faction unwilling to break their truce. Heroic Light One Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) now has a son called Yegor (Dmitry Martynov), who sided with the Dark Ones at the climax of Night Watch – meaning Anton now spends his time destroying evidence of his son's attacks on humans... which breaks the rules of their truce.

Thrown into the mix for this sequel (purely as a story-saving tactic) is the Chalk Of Fate, a fabled instrument that can be used to alter a person's destiny simply by writing. Day Watch eventually becomes a half-hearted relic hunt, with the bubbling threat of global apocalypse if the truce is judged to have been broken.

I don't pretend to have understood everything here. It's certainly easier to grasp than the dizzying Night Watch was, but it still suffers from being too hectic and confusing for its own good. I'm not sure if it stems from the Russian/subtitles (but that's never spoiled my enjoyment of foreign films before), or the fact it seems to assume you've read the source novels by Sergei Lukyanenko.

You can just about follow Day Watch enough to reap some rewards, but it ultimately becomes a slog to sit through (at 2 hours 12, when the story could have been told in 1 hour 40).

As with the first film, its saving grace are the beautiful stunts, effects and ideas sprinkled here and there: a bright red sports car defies gravity by screeching along the side of a building, for absolutely no reason... a man survives having a bus crash into him... a big ferris wheel spins down a street, crushing cars and people in its wake... a man alters his features by putting his face into a snow-imprint... horses smash through brick walls in an opening attack on a maze... and many more. It's astounding this was all achieved on a minuscule $4.2 million budget!

These moments all make a great trailer (as it did), but there are huge gaps between the visual delights – and nothing in-between keeps your interest for long. In fact, once the whereabouts of the Chalk Of Fate is limply revealed (somewhere maddeningly humdrum), and its "keeper" simply hands it over to Anton... I really began to despair.

Clearly inspired by The Matrix, with a Harry Potter-style approach to how its supernatural characters go about their business in chilly Moscow, Day Watch is ultimately too baffling and ill-conceived to work its magic. The only solid reason to watch is for Bekmambetov's amazing visual flair (and even then, you get a better adrenaline rush when it's condescend into a 2-minute trailer.)

I'm really glad Bekmambetov will be making his English-language debut in Hollywood with crazy assassin flick Wanted this year, starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy. If he can supplant his inventive visuals into Western films, with a script you can follow with ease, he'll become a talent worth watching. I just hope he fairs better in America than John Woo did...

For now; if you loved Night Watch, Day Watch is a mild improvement... but if you hated it, avoid this second Watch like the plague.

Fox Searchlight Pictures
Budget: $4.2 million
132 minutes

PICTURE: 2.35:1 | SOUND: Dolby Digital 5.1 |