Night Watch (Russia 2004)

Rating: **
Review Date: 2/26/06
Written and Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
Cast: Konstantin Khabensky

The first film in an ambitious Russian trilogy about the vampire apocalypse. For centuries "The Others" have been creeping around - people with supernatural powers and the ability to exist in a realm known as "The Gloom." The Others are divided into two factions: the Light Others and the Dark Others. They all have a thirst for blood, but only the Dark Others feed off of humans. Equally matched, the forces of light and dark have held a truce for centuries, but now that truce is crumbling. The prophecy of the coming of The Great One is unfolding, as well as the prophecy of the return of the cursed virgin, which brings with it a deadly vortex of crows. Both of these events spell certain doom for all life on Earth. On the side of lightness is Anton (Konstantin Khabensky), a pathetic excuse of a man who also happens to be a seer. His visions of the future aid the forces of light in keeping the forces of darkness in check, but when he stops a young boy from being taken by vampires, a horrible chain of events conspires to ruin his life.

A well made and visually engaging film full of beautiful imagery and eye-popping special effects, but completely incomprehensible and not overly interesting. Sadly, I've become so jaded that nothing seems fresh and original anymore. Unfortunately, the film also employs some detestable Hollywood styled editing, which makes the film even more difficult to follow. While the film presents a lot of neat and imaginative ideas, it never seems to follow through with any of them, which I suppose is great for someone with ADD, but maddening for anyone who's looking for a cohesive narrative. The action scenes are tense and nicely staged, but they go by too quickly and there aren't nearly enough of them to keep the pace of the film from stalling. The visual effects are also nicely realized, but many of them seem gratuitous and overstay their welcome, dragging the film to a halt. The cinematography is great, and the look of the film is very dark and moody - lots of rich colors and deep shadows. The acting is quite good, but the film suffers from not having any likable characters, or any characters that can be identified with. The audience is treated like an outsider who has been allowed to witness a war between forces it doesn't know anything about, and the moral ambiguities of Light and Dark just confuse the situation even more. Flawed, but a passable way to spend an afternoon.