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"Night Watch"

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov.
Written by Timur Bekmambetov and Laeta Kalogridis.  Based on a novel by Sergei Lukyanenko.
Starring Konstantin Khabensky.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  2/21/06


I was hyped to check out the super-big Russian production "Night Watch", and when a freebie came down the pipe I made sure to check it out.  Upon leaving, and speaking with my partner-in-crime Tena about the flick, I had to wonder:

Why isn't "Night Watch" very good?

The film, the first in a trilogy (the second film was just released overseas), has been publicized in theaters here for almost a year; it was supposed to be released in the U.S. last summer but was bumped to this spring.  Basically a less action-oriented, subtitled version of the Kate Beckinsale "Underworld" series, "Night Watch" is the story of an age-old battle between the Dark Others and the Light Others, who I think are all vampires, or wolves, or other creatures of my imagination, who decided on a truce many years ago because they were all too bad-ass.  (This is only a partial exaggeration.)  Fast forward to Moscow, 1992, where a guy named Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) decides to meet with a vampire genie that has the power to grant wishes to those that can find her.  Turns out Anton's wife has left him for another man, and worse, is pregnant with somebody's child.  Anton wishes she would miscarry, and the vampire genie goes about carrying this evil wish out...but, at the last minute, the operation is aborted because members of the Light Others show up and take down the genie, who happens to be Dark.

With me so far?

Fast forward 12 more that Anton has seen too much regarding how these Others operate, he becomes one of them, and due to other rules about these people, he sides with the Light and becomes a member of the Night Watch, which is a whole other story (not Other, other) altogether.  Some of these vampires are able to walk the streets during the day (like Blade), which made me even more confused, and a lot of weird shit happens with a shapeshifting owl, a Vortex, and a lot of guys that can pull swords out of their back.  Then, the movie ends on a cliffhanger.

At first, I wanted to believe that "Night Watch" confused me because it was a foreign film, featuring lots of subtitles and subtleties in nature that maybe Russians might pick up if I could not.  Then, it hit me--no matter what language this is, the storyline is so confusing and so frontloaded to set up the other two films that it couldn't succeed in any language.  It's like watching "Star Wars Episode I" without having watched the original trilogy; you simply have to spend time figuring out this Others business, and the destiny of the Virgin, and the Vortex, and why certain bulbs in certain flashlights will kill off certain vampires.  All of this set up and so little actual action makes "Night Watch" quite a labor to sit through, especially when you have to continuously read the screen to see what's going on.

Relying on loud shock shots and MTV-style editing techniques, "Night Watch" may be a labor to sit through story-wise but rarely does the film sag...the camerawork is lively and over-stylized, but it keeps the thing visually entertaining throughout.  The best part for U.S. audiences was the subtitle work; if there was an Oscar for Best Use of Subtitles, "Night Watch" would win without competition, since somebody spent a gazillion hours on that part of the transfer making sure it was cool.  Although there is almost zero action to speak of (truly rare for a vampire movie these days), there is one decent sequence where Anton takes out a Dark Other with a sweet play of a handy cracked mirror.

Otherwise, "Night Watch" was not so great for me; knowing that there are two more films, the sky's the limit with these things since they will have to be better than the first film in the series.  I'm anxious to see who tries to steal from this material first here in the States.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09