7 out of 10
"Russian" To Get To The Blood
Named by Quintin Tarantino as the next "Lord of the Rings," "Night Watch," or "Nochnoy Dozor," written and directed by Kazakstani director Timur Bekmambetov, is much, much better. Based on the trilogy by writer Sergei Lukyanenko and quickly followed by sequels Night Watch 2 and 3, it has become a much loved indie classic in Russia before it's recent release in North America.
It is current day in Moscow, and there is a battle between light and darkness. Humans who have superhuman powers, called the "Others," have committed to a truce centuries before, but the forces of darkness have begun to rise up and create havoc in the city. Anton (the popular Russian actor Konstantin Khabensky), who once chose darkness when he was afraid of losing his wife, is now a guardian of the Light and when he is sent to perform his duties as one of the Light, he believes he has forseen the coming of the Apocalypse. A vortex has been created by the sorrow and guilt of Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina), a young nurse, who is unaware of her curse and Anton decides to find a way to stop her to prevent a the balance of light and darkness from shifting. But while Anton may have saved the city from the vortex, an even more chilling occurance is about to take place, one that involves Anton on a more personal level than he knows.
A film that remains realistic even when filled with vampires and shapeshifters is impressive feat to be sure. Similar to the dark and off-the-wall feel of Jean-Pierre Jeunet films "The City of Lost Children" and "Delicatessen" or Terry Gilliam's "Brazil," "Night Watch" is filled with fascinating special effects, realistic characters and clever situations which make the story come to life in a way that is often only found in European cinema. Filmed on the highest budget ever for a Russian film, it contains elements of traditional folk tales, fantasy and horror, along with an almost mafioso style plot, it is tempered by a well-grounded story and all the elements work together impressively. Although much has been lost in the international version, including changes in soundtrack and plot, which may explain some of the gaps in the story, it is still a stunning picture. While the first was overflowing with so many ideas, very few managed to be resolved, hopefully the sequels will be better developed and delve more deeply into the strange world of the "Others."
Film Critic:Jennifer Lillies