Day Watch (2004) / Fantasy-Horror
aka Dnevnoi Dozor
aka Night Watch 2
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but would probably be R for strong violence, disturbing images, and language
Running Time: 140 min. (Russian release)
Cast: Konstantin Khabensky, Mariya Poroshina, Gosha (Yuri) Kutsenko, Dmitry Martynov, Viktor Verzhbitsky, Zhanna Friske, Vladimir Menshov, Valeri Zolotukhin, Aleksei Chadov, Igor Lifanov, Galina Tyunina, Rimma Markova, Mariya Marinova
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Screenplay: Timur Bekmambetov (based on the second and third parts of the novel "Nochnoi Dozor" by Sergei Lukyanenko)
Review published March 30, 2006
There is some confusion in terms of the adaptation credits when it comes to the second film in Sergei Lukyanenko's "Watch" series, as it appears that writer-director Timur Bekmambetov has reportedly retooled the second and third parts of the three-part novel, "Nochnoi Dozor" (Night Watch) and not the actual second novel, "Dnevnoi Dozor" (Day Watch). Not having read the novels myself, I really can't vouch for this information, but if that's the case, it's just as well that this series confounds fans of the books just as much as it does non-readers.
Day Watch, as the second movie is titled, continues the trend of the first film in delivering confusing developments and very sketchy character motivations, although it certainly does them in the most eye-catching of ways. It's highly recommended to see the first film, Night Watch, before attempting this sequel, as there is literally no recap of events, thrusting you right in the middle of the action without explanation.
Although Bekmambetov still hasn't learned a great deal when it comes to proper narrative development, Day Watch actually starts off as a very simple buddy movie, with Anton (Khabensky) now training his new partner in the Night Watch, Svetlana (Poroshina), the cursed virgin from the first film. Svetlana is destined to be a Great One (or Great Other), and Anton's son, Yegor (Martynov) is soon to be another (once his birthday rolls around), and if the two should ever meet, it would mean a rekindling of the Great War between the forces of Light and Darkness, and the end of the world as we know it.
Ironically, trouble brews right away, as their first big assignment happens to be in trying to take down a Dark vampire, who just so happens to turn out to be Yegor himself. While Svetlana pursues, Anton secretly tries to protect his boy, stealing back the evidence proving his guilt. However, this puts the Night Watch in a compromised position, so to rectify the situation, Anton desires the legendary Chalk of Fate, rumored to have been buried somewhere in Russia by 14th Century conqueror, Tamerlan (aka TImur), so that he might be able to rewrite his history and stop the inevitable madness from happening.
For about the first hour, Day Watch actually succeeds in delivering the best stretch in terms of story coherence and entertaining developments in the series thus far. Eschewing the darker horror-tinge that permeated Night Watch, the story plays out as a cop thriller and romantic comedy, with flirtations existing between Anton and Svetlana that brings a new element to the characters, which takes a turn for the funny when Anton is forced to switch bodies with fellow Night Watch agent (the owl from Night Watch), Olga (Tyunina). This section is humorous, daring, irreverent, and a breath of fresh air in contrast to the sometimes repulsive and claustrophobic way the darker scenes are shot and edited.
Alas, momentum, as well as logical consistency, begins to wane as the time of Yegor's birthday begins to draw near, as things begin to happen so quickly and without proper explanation, the mounting conflict between Night Watch and Day Watch turns this sequel into the kind of muddled, special effects-heavy smorgasbord that the first film was. Compounding the problem is the film's length, which at close to 2 1/2 hours (of the original Russian release) can make a difficult-to-follow story quite tedious and frustrating for viewers trying to actually diligently follow the course of events. In the end, you just do the best you can in terms of guesswork, although the ending of the film makes it a bit of a moot issue.
Day Watch, flaws and all, will probably please the most ardent fans of Night Watch, as it contains everything expected in terms of special effects, virtuoso camera movements, and zany characters galore. Conversely, those that found the first film a difficult and disappointing experience probably won't be changing their tune, as Day Watch continues the often claustrophobic framing, confusing plotting, and senseless action without giving us any vested rooting interest in seeing anyone succeed or fail. In the end, it really comes down to how much you're willing to endure in terms of the high overhead of the film's sketchy exposition. I will look forward to a tightened-up, shrewdly edited international release before declaring final judgment.
©2006 Vince Leo