Written by Puño Estupendo
In 2004 Russian director Timur Bekmambetov surprised the fantasy world with his film Nochnoy dozor, translated for our English senses as Night Watch. The film did surprisingly well over in the U.S. and garnered a lot of attention from the geek community. When was the last time you remember a Russian fantasy/action/horror film making the rounds? Exactly my point, it was quite an accomplishment.
In Night Watch, Bekmambetov created a modern Moscow that was inhabited by a supernatural community broken into two warring factions. Those of Light have battled those of the Dark for longer than any of us have been around and the film's central character was Anton Gorodetsky, a member of the forces of Light. However, if haven't seen it, there's not a whole lot of reason to watch Day Watch, its 2006 sequel, because it starts running right out of the gate and doesn't stop to catch you up on what's been established previously. This is awesome if you have a fantastic memory for Night Watch, but if you don't, you might want to re-watch it first.
At the beginning of Day Watch there is a flashback sequence of the 14th century warlord Tamerlane and his attempt to gain the Chalk Of Fate. Whoever has it can use it to write their own destiny and control the fate of the world. These things are usually a mixed blessing and you know right away that the Chalk is going to play a big part somewhere down the line.
Cut to modern day Moscow and Anton is on patrol with his overly eager trainee Svetlana. A call comes from dispatch and asks them to investigate an attack by a Dark One which throws the viewer right back into Bekmambetov's world established in the previous film. The heavies are reintroduced and Anton's problems pick right back up.
Konstantin Khabensky handles the role of Anton effortlessly and makes you very sympathetic with everything that happens to him. He's definitely a tragic figure but you want him to succeed; you want things to go better for him than they did in Night Watch. It also doesn't hurt that a great ensemble cast surrounds him. Mariya Poroshina's Svetlana flows well with him onscreen and the charisma there helps pull you into the troubles coming their way.
And man, Anton's about to have some major troubles. Bummer for him and his pals, good stuff for you and me.
Now not wanting to give a play-by-play, and as I'm not reviewing Night Watch, I'm just going to lay down the good and the bad here. Day Watch is shot beautifully. It's got style and a really nice cut to it and even though we've seen the look before, that doesn't mean it's not well done. Though a little slower in pace than I'd like at times, the cast keeps you involved. Everyone seems to have an interesting face and they're so not Hollywood. The acting is well done and is what gets you through the slower spots.
Action fans know this: when you get your scenes, you really get your scenes. One of the biggest compliments I can give this film is for the special effects in the action scenes. Now before you can roll your eyes and sarcastically say "Yay, it has awesome special effects," let me explain. What makes the effects take such hold isn't in their quality. It's mostly CGI you've seen a hundred times before and you're not going to be wowed by seeing them for the hundred and first. The cool thing is the originality in which they're used. There's some scenes that I feel pretty safe in saying you haven't seen anything quite like them before. A sports car and a skyscraper. Watch it and tell me that it wasn't cool; I dare you.
Now for the bad. Day Watch suffers from taking a lot for granted with its audience, kind of like old Italian giallo flicks. The plot takes a couple of turns that I found myself scratching my head over, not believing that they would be viable enough for the characters to go with. There's a frame-up, to be exact, but there's really not anything concrete that happens enough to where I thought the characters would act upon it. It's kind of like someone shouting, "You did it!" without any real proof, yet everyone just goes with it and suddenly you're wanted. But for the sake of the movie you just have to let it get past that line of thought. Also, I believed this to be the second movie in what was to be a trilogy, but the ending seemed pretty final. I could be wrong with this guess and, if so, the third movie should prove to be very different from the first two.
If you've seen Night Watch and liked it, then you'll not be hurt by seeing Day Watch at all. It's a fine sequel and has the same impact as Night Watch: it doesn't blow you away but it's definitely worth watching. And if you haven't viewed the first one yet, then do so, and you'll know right away if this is something you should check out. It's cool enough to where I'll happily watch a third if it gets made and I'm guessing my review will probably end up pretty much just like this one.