As follow-up to the first major release of a Russian film after the collapse of the Soviet film industry (Night Watch had a budget of $4.2 million), Day Watch does an admirable job of keeping the pace brisk and the action constant, despite the fact that the film is built upon flimsy plot devices. The film follows Night Watch protagonist Anton as he attempts to reconnect with his son Yegor, who defected to the dark side, while pursuing a relationship with a new trainee in the Night Watch -- a group that polices the dark supernatural beings (the dark police keeping tabs on the light side is the Day Watch).
The film makes no attempts to veil its subtext, Yegor is the Great Dark One and Anton's love interest is the Great Light One; both of them literally pulling for his attention from either side. And the MacGuffin driving the action? The Chalk of Fate -- a magical piece of chalk that can change events depending on what the holder writes. Best not even to mention the 30 minutes Anton spends as a woman and bunks with his infatuated trainee, in a cheap, manipulative way to drive the love story forward as quickly as possible.
In an ironic twist, the saving grace of Day Watch is also what takes away from the film's story -- the visual effects. It's not that the effects are particularly good, but director Timur Bekmambetov has a visual style that's one part Jean-Pierre Jeunet (City of Lost Children, Amelie) and one part Wachowski brothers (The Matrix, Speed Racer). For the most part, it works for him: Day Watch's action keeps the film plowing through the nagging plot questions of "Who's that again?" and "What's happening?" Perhaps the most distinct and interesting use of effects is the visual punctuations within the subtitles: "Bitch!" splatters in red against a white wall as a hurled chunk of raw meat slides down it; words said in anger violently shake and shatter, while utterances of despair dissolve into vapor. The visual subtitle twist works well for the action-driven film where eye candy is more important than genuine emotion, and it may even curb cries of boredom from lazy moviegoers who don't want to "read" their movies.
Although Day Watch is the Russian equivalent of a Hollywood money-grabber, it's surprisingly fun and at least gives the illusion of depth with Anton's pining over his dark son. Entering a genre that's overstuffed with bombastic computer-generated effects, Day Watch's supernatural police and Bekmambetov's rich visual palette give the film enough strength at least to throw a couple elbows to set itself apart from other nameless films with plenty of effects, but little vision.
Aka Dnevnoy dozor.
Yep, it's Memorex.
Run time: 132 mins
In Theaters: Sunday 1st January 2006
Box Office USA: $0.4M
Box Office Worldwide: $38.9M
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Production compaines: Bazelevs Production, Channel One Russia, TABBAK
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Fresh: 61 Rotten: 35
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Producer: Konstantin Ernst, Anatoli Maksimov
Screenwriter: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: Konstantin Khabenskiy as Anton Gorodetsky, Mariya Poroshina as Svetlana, Vladimir Menshov as Geser, Galina Tyunina as Olga, Zhanna Friske as Alisa, Viktor Verzhbitskiy as Zavulon, Dmitriy Martynov as Egor, Nurzhuman Ikhtymbayev as Zoar, Aleksei Maklakov as Semen, Aleksandr Samoylenko as Bear, Yuriy Kutsenko as Ignat, Irina Yakovleva as Galina Rogova, Georgiy Dronov as Tolik, Nikolay Olyalin as The Inquisitor, Valeriy Zolotukhin as Kostya’s Father, Rimma Markova as The Witch Darya, Anna Slyusareva as Tiger Cub, Igor Lifanov as The Parrot, Mariya Mironova as Egor’s Mother, Anna Dubrovskaya as The Vampiress, Sergey Ovchinnikov as Sergey Ovchinnikov, Anton Stepanenko as Anton Stepanenko, Sergey Trofimov as Zavulon’s Secretary, Aleksey Chadov as Kostja
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