A fantasy-thriller set in present-day Moscow where the respective forces that control daytime and nighttime do battle.A fantasy-thriller set in present-day Moscow where the respective forces that control daytime and nighttime do battle.A fantasy-thriller set in present-day Moscow where the respective forces that control daytime and nighttime do battle.
First, let's applaud the good parts. "Night Watch" is distinctly Russian. Moscow is presented as a vibrant mix of modern metropolis and Gothic-style throwback to the middle ages. The plot, heavily steeped in its own fabricated mythology from a series of popular books, also serves on some level as an allegory for the fall of Communism and the rise of Capitalism. In my mind, the forces of "dark" forced underground are the Communists, while the forces of "light" (whose HQ is fronted by the City Electric Company) are the Capitalists, who often get caught up in their own bureaucracy in their vain attempts to keep the peace and not violate the truce. Some of the special effects and modern riffs on vampirism are highly imaginative and disarming (I loved "The Gloom" aspect). The American distributors also deserve some credit for their creative use of subtitles which often become part of the scene without ever distracting from the visuals.
Unfortunately, the director is clearly a veteran of music videos, and he makes the action sequences hyper kinetic and often incoherent. When he does manage to create an alluring visual, he quick-cuts, and you wish he would've had the patience to hold some of the shots longer. This hectic visual style is evident in the plotting as well, which clearly is setting up for sequels with the introduction of many characters, though some of the subplots (especially involving the cursed virgin woman and her evil vortex) seemed unnecessary. Likewise, the rushed finale seemed oddly anti-climatic and didn't pack the wallop I feel the filmmakers intended.
Despite the flaws, I will eagerly await the American distribution of the sequels, and I suppose that is the greatest compliment a film like this can receive.
- Mar 7, 2006