Day Watch (Russia 2006)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 11/19/17
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Cast: Konstantin Khabenskiy, Mariya Poroshina, Vladimir Menshov, Galina Tyunina, Viktor Verzhbitskiy, Zhanna Friske

Timur Bekmambetov's mind-boggling sequel to "Night Watch" (2004) is a considerable improvement over the original, but it's still an incomprehensible mess. It starts out well enough, but the protracted climax is confusing and about an hour too long. For one thousand years, there's been a truce between the Light Ones and the Dark Ones, but it's about to be broken. Anton (Konstantin Khabenskiy) is a seer in the service of the Light Ones, but his estranged son, Yegor, is a Dark One, and possibly a Great One. When Yegor stirs up trouble, Anton is framed for murder, and the rest of the film has him trying to clear his name and save the world from annihilation. An ancient relic called the Chalk Of Fate may be his only chance for salvation.

Bekmambetov is a visionary director, and the film bursting with crazy ideas and imaginative visuals. Anything is possible, and the film moves at such a breakneck pace that you never get a chance to question the absurdity of it all. Just strap yourself in, turn off your brain, and enjoy the ride. It's beautifully shot and the Russian locales look fantastic (and cold). The action is furious and hard hitting, and while the film relies heavily on CGI, the visual effects are quite impressive. I was also pleased by how many strong female characters are in the film, which increased my engagement and enjoyment considerably. Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina) is a beautiful trainee and love interest, who may also be a Great One. Her love for Anton leads her into direct conflict with Yegor for the fate of the world. Olga (Galina Tyunina) is a sexy sorceress who switches bodies with Anton, and delivers a fantastic gender-bent performance. Her intensity is intoxicating. And then there's Alisa (Zhanna Friske), a love slave bound in service to Zavulon (Viktor Verzhbitskiy), whose deadly sex appeal is matched only by her hot temper. She has an awesome devil horn hair style that I immediately fell in love with.

Sadly, for all of the great characters and wonderful visuals, the film is a narrative mess, and it's hard to keep track of what's going on. After a while, you stop caring and just want it to be over. At its core, it's really just a relationship drama that happens to involve sorcerers and vampires. Anton is a pathetic drunk and an irresponsible father who is desperately trying to correct his past mistakes. He and Svetlana clearly love each other, but he forcibly keeps his distance from her. The only time they show any warmth towards each other is when Anton is in Olga's body, which provides some very charged female chemistry. The humor is quirky and doesn't always work, but maybe that's a cultural thing. If you're a fan of Timur Bekmambetov's frenetic and unbounded visual style, this film is definitely worth checking out. "Night Watch" isn't required viewing, but it certainly helps to set the stage