Day Watch (2007)
Day Watch (2007)

Genre: Action and Fantasy Running Time: 2 hrs. 12 min.

Release Date: June 1st, 2007 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Timur Bekmambetov Actors: Konstantin Khabensky, Mariya Poroshina, Vladimir Menshov, Galina Tyunina, Viktor Verzhbitsky, Zhanna Friske, Dmitry Martynov, Valery Zolotukhin

 


 

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ith its intricately clever story of love, hate, revenge – and chalk – heightened by an abundance of imaginative imagery bordering on visceral assault, “Day Watch” manages to cement itself in that rare circle of sequels that surpasses their predecessors in quality and entertainment. And it’s a perfect companion piece to director Timur Bekmambetov’s previous sci-fi/fantasy “Night Watch.” The good-versus-evil storyline is more prominent this time out, while also sporting crazier, more refined special effects and action sequences, but it maintains the same dark and moody atmosphere, punctuated frequently by bouts of refreshingly bizarre humor.

Futuristic Moscow is a place secretly populated by two sects of vampires (Light and Dark) that have long been honoring a shaky truce of peace. Picking up where the first film left off, Anton’s (Konstantin Khabensky) son Yegor (Dmitry Martynov) has joined the side of evil, upsetting the delicate balance between the opposing factions – but not entirely destroying it. Now, the side of good has their own Great Other in the form of Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina), whom Anton begins training – while unintentionally falling in love with the hopeful savior. Still desiring bloodshed, the Dark leader Zavulon (Victor Verzhbitsky) frames Anton for murder and uses Svetlana’s feelings for him to create a climactic confrontation with Yegor, which should ignite a war that will leave the world in darkness. Luckily for the forces of good, there’s a fateful piece of chalk that can save them all.

While the synopsis may leave an eyebrow raised, “Day Watch” manages to organize its bevy of wondrously strange concepts into a surprisingly cohesive storyline – though viewing of its predecessor is strongly recommended. A rather simplistic plot of good-versus-evil lies at the heart of this epic fantasy, but Bekmambetov’s exponential layers of fictitious history, modern mythology, and futuristic anomalies construct a degree of complexity that may leave viewers who blink for a second too long scratching their heads in confusion. Though both films require a suspension of disbelief – as well as a rain check on most explanations of the phenomena that populate this gothic world – it’s astonishingly easy to accept due to the over-the-top nature of everything presented. There are several grades of attuned awareness in each force, the laws of gravity and physics rarely remain intact, and human transformation into animals is a common occurrence. Once introduced to the inexplicable elements and loose laws that govern the possible and blur the line of plausible, it’s far more beneficial for enjoyment’s sake to stop questioning any realism and just accept the oddities that reign. It is fantasy, after all. Just like in “The Matrix,” anything can happen as long as the characters believe in it; its effectiveness resides in the audience’s willingness to accept that.

Though some may negatively critique the complex storytelling foundation upon which the film stands, it would be far harder to justify an ill word against the insanely inspired visuals. Even if fatal flashlights, using telephone wires as bullwhips, or driving cars along buildings isn’t up to cinematic standards, there are still heart-pounding car chases, exploding buildings, massive battles, and a yo-yo ball of hate-fueled death. Nonstop movement saturates the film (whether it’s an omen or a curse is up to the viewer to decide), keeping the relatively long running time from hindering the pace. Frenetic motion can be witnessed in everything from the camerawork to the editing to the subtitles. Even the slow-motion sequences barely feel like a change. The unique usage of moving and morphing captions, which almost act out the very actions they represent, further adds to the breakneck speed – but serves as a reminder to the tragedy of reading subtitles during a movie as visual as this one. And, of course, said visuals provide an unpredictable display of unrelenting imagination – from a truck crashing through a semi to the hyper-kinetic racing of second level gloom, one can never be too sure what they’ll see next.

Another vast improvement over “Night Watch” is evident in the newfound quantity of humor. Dimitri Kiselev’s choice of cuts – combined with some truly awkward moments – and Timur’s correspondingly inappropriate imagery make for some laugh-out-loud sequences – something unexpected but entirely welcome. Highlights include a freefall tango, a wimpy parrot-like henchman, and an unlikely body switch that inevitably leads to a shower sequence (which begins in a bathtub and ends on a waterfall).

If a filmmaker knew they could make a single, final movie before they died, they’d certainly cram every one of their ideas into it, whether brilliant or hackneyed. One might get the feeling that Bekmambetov adopted a similar mindset for this project, since “Day Watch” is utterly jam-packed with incongruous concepts – ranging from parallels to the Matrix, the Force, and “The Lord of the Rings” to vampires mixed with shapeshifters mixed with Jedi. Not all of them are perfect, but far more are artistically competent than absurdly inconceivable; essentially, what works is far greater than what doesn’t (a ratio much less positive in Timur’s previous chapter). And combined with a compelling, time-altering love story, set against an impending destruction of the world, even an asinine conception like a piece of chalk that can change its user’s past starts to fit in with the wealth of other surrealistic factors.

– Joel Massie

  • 8/10