Combustible Celluloid
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With: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Valeri Zolotukhin, Mariya Poroshina, Galina Tyunina, Yuri Kutsenko, Aleksei Chadov, Zhanna Friske
Written by: Timur Bekmambetov, Laeta Kalogridis, based on a novel by Sergei Lukyanenko
Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, disturbing images and language
Language: Russian with English subtitles
Running Time: 114
Date: 06/27/2004

Night Watch (2006)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Shot in the Dark

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This Russian film, with elements of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, became the top-grossing movie in its home country, defeating even the mighty Lord of the Rings trilogy. Director Timur Bekmambetov has already completed a sequel, and Part 3 is soon to follow.

Night Watch begins with a flashback, explaining that, after a great battle, the forces of darkness and light came to an uneasy truce. Night Watchers would keep an eye on the forces of darkness, and Day Watchers would do the same for the forces of light. This has continued throughout history until Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) steps into the picture. Before he realizes his destiny as a Night Watcher, he pays for a magical spell to get his wife back. Years later, he accidentally kills a vampire in a battle. Those two incidents are somehow connected, plus the Apocalypse is coming and an ancient prophecy is about to come true. Additionally, Anton partners up with a woman who, as a form of punishment, was turned into an owl.

Bekmambetov photographs everything in great swirls of blue-gray; his camera jumps and soars during fight scenes, and when a car engine starts, we see all the pistons and turbines firing and spinning (shades of The Fast and the Furious). Even the animated subtitles appear to bow to the commands of the characters' wills. Indeed, Night Watch has a great deal going on, and it's all an attempt to cover up the fact that, underneath all the sound and fury, there's very little to care about. We've seen many stories about prophecies and apocalypses (Ghostbusters is one very similar example), and Night Watch doesn't try anything new.

However, the extreme hype is partly to blame for this disappointment, and if an evening of mindless entertainment is all that's required, viewers could do a lot worse.

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