Film review by: Witney Seibold
So the film is a bit confusing. And the David Fincher-inspired photography is dizzying (do we really need pans through a truck’s innards, indicating exactly which parts are igniting?). And it does have the same kind of alienating teen fanboy overenthusiasm akin to genre flicks like Underworld and Constantine that chooses special effects over common story semblance. But Timor Bekmambetov’s Night Watch, the first post-Soviet Russian supernatural action thriller I can think of (and the first part of a proposed trilogy), is actually kind of fun. It’s not a well-done, solid fantasy thriller along the lines of a Blade or a Lord of the Rings, or even a Hellboy, but it certainly goes for the throat, and it mostly succeeds. Largely due to it’s dark, Eastern European style, and its slight absence of teenage Hollywood glut.
The setup is a bit complicated, so I’ll try to be concise: Centuries ago, The Dark and The Light, represented by superpowered beings called Others, agreed to split up the day. The Dark would roam freely the night, The Light the day. Each has a group of cops to police the other half’s shenanigans; the Light have the Night Watch, the Dark, the Day Watch. When a young man (Konstantin Khabensky) asks a Dark Other to put a curse on his ex-girlfriend, he is thwarted by Light Others, learns that he is an Other, and joins the Night Watch. 12 years later (!) he discovers, by accident, a plot conceived by The Dark to turn a young boy (possibly the new Other messiah or something) into a vampire. Oh, did I mention that Others are vampires? They are. And there’s a confusing subplot about a dark vortex hanging over the unluckiest woman on the planet. I’m not entirely sure that the vortex plot and the boy plot are connected, but they were both cool.
Some things that make this film stand out: Its use of subtitles. Words appear and fade and are wiped off the screen, occasionally appear off-center, in different colors, and sometimes evaporate into smoke. It’s a neat effect; I also hate to sound like a snooty foreign-lovin’ critic-boy, but its Russian setting and Russian sensibility did offset the content enough to make it seem more interesting that it would have been in an American film. This film is already doing well in theaters, and I think it’s worth it to go see why.
February 17th, Fox Searchlight