The timeless battle between Good and Evil goes into maelstrom mode in Night Watch, as a swarm of ravens whoosh through the Moscow skies and various normal-looking citizens suddenly start quaffing pig’s blood and walking dazed into oncoming cars.
The Russian horror pic, a huge hit in its homeland, describes a world in precarious
balance, teeming with vampires and unseen spirits, beneficent and bad.
Timur Bekmambetov, a director who cut his teeth, so to speak, on TV commercials,
orchestrates this undead drama with whooshing elan, no little humor, and doses
of gore that are all the more effective for their (relative) rationing.
Although a voice-over prologue rumbles ominously in English, most of Night Watch
is in the mother tongue, but even the subtitles do weird things – flying
around in different sizes and fonts, punctuating the action. And action there
is: witches aborting embryos telepathically; impromptu open-heart surgery in an
electric company’s boardroom; massive rooftop battles; and jumbo jets in
danger of plummeting to Earth.
Based on an occult novel, Night Watch is the first in a promised trio of films
that follows "the Others" – humans with supernatural powers who
in effect function as U.N. peacekeepers, maintaining a delicate truce between
the armies of Light and the armies of Darkness.
Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) is one such Other, and his mission, should he choose
to accept it (he really has no choice), is to rescue a young boy named Egor (Dima
Martinov) from a band of thuggish vampires. On the subway en route to a creepy
warehouse where Egor is being held, Anton spots a woman whose hair is blowing
straight up in the air: There’s some kind of cosmic vortex being funneled
from her noggin into the night sky. That can’t be a good thing, can it?
Following the carnivorous convolutions of Night Watch’s plot is no easy task,
but director Bekmambetov paints an eye-popping canvas: dark, ratty, full of blood
and seamless CG effects. The look (and spirit) of his movie bear kinship to Jean-Pierre
Jeunet and Marc Caro’s Delicatessen and David Fincher’s Fight Club;
the ghoulish goings-on are set in a decidedly decayed cityscape, and the faces
of even the briefest-seen supporting characters are rich with circus-freak features:
veiny, bulbous noses, sinister lips, eyes wild with madness and melancholy.
Although it doesn’t have Kate Beckinsale, her guns ablazin’, vamped
out in the latest vampire-slaying couture, Night Watch is vastly more fun than
the similar-themed Underworld pics. It’s a trip.
—Steven Rea, KRT
© 2006, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
Night Watch is currently in theatres.
Film: Movie Reviews [Nightwatch]
By Steven Rea
Article posted on 2/27/2006
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