Movie Review – Day Watch
– Summary –
Director : Timur Bekmambetov
Year Of Release : 2006
Principal Cast : Konstantin Khabenski, Mariya Poroshina, Vladimir Menshov, Viktor Verzhbitsky, Dmitriy Martynov.
Approx Running Time : 132 Minutes
Synopsis: Anton, now an agent of the Vampires, is out to keep the peace between warring factions.
What we think : Sound and fury don’t come more convoluted and style-over-substance than this, a half-baked vampire epic that has to work way to hard to get its point across. If there is a point.
Reviewing this film was always going to be tough for me. I never really found myself all that involved in the original film of this trilogy (Night Watch, being film 1, followed by Day Watch, and the third film is yet to be made) which meant that my expectations of Day Watch were particularly low. Of course, the effects looked spectacular, but the storyline seemed a little convoluted. Perhaps I just don’t “get” foreign films like other people seem to, but I found myself a little lost while watching what could have been a truly exceptional piece of film-making.
It all appeared to be a lot of style over substance. Anton, played by Konstantin Khabensky in a role that suited him down to the ground, is a Night Watch agent, out to keep the peace between the Vampires. I think. At least, that’s what I gleaned from the film. Having slept through most of Night Watch, and then being utterly confused by Day Watch, I found that all I was really interested in was the relationship between Anton and Svetlana (his long time love interest, apparently) who, in a bizarre twist of improbability manages to confess this to Anton while Anton’s mind is inside another Vampire’s body, which, as it happens, is a female one.
The rest of the story revolves around Antons disenfranchised son Yegor, and the impending war between factions of Vampire, which is prevented only by an uneasy truce (and in any case, the good guys and bad guys are so obscurely portrayed it’s hard to side with either one). That, and a magic bit of chalk that can change history and make dreams come true, all adds up to a bizarre mix of hyper-realism and pseudo-fantasy that, strangely, doesn’t become a cohesive whole.
Filled with dynamite action sequences and some spectacular (if improbable) special effects, Day Watch is a confusing and character-driven action film that tries desperately for credence but ultimately fails to deliver on any sort of emotive content. It’s an empty, hollow shell of a film; although it certainly looks pretty.
Night Watch started the series off with, I must admit, a bit of a whimper, and upon waking from my coma after watching it, I decided that if the other two films were ever made, that I should at least give them a chance to rectify the story.
With time-traveling narrative in full flight, Day Watch is a barrage of dynamic camera angles, rampant special effects, action sequences that add up to nothing (there’s no payoff, they almost seem to be included for the director to justify an increased budget) and a cast chewing through the script like some bizarre “battle of the actors” competition.
If there was a prize for the most spectacular use of special digital effects to create a mood, then this film would win, hands down. But the language barrier truly prevents any non-Russian speaking viewer to become a little lost in amongst the bullets, explosions and apocalyptic viscera.
Of course, the English dub available on the DVD I was watching may have helped, but I prefer to watch films in their original language where possible. And before anybody tells me that perhaps I should have just bitten the bullet and gone with the English dub, and gained a better outlook on the film: I watched Das Boot in German and got more out of it than the English dub. Can I mention that Das Boot still ranks as my favorite, and perhaps best made, non-English film ever?
It shouldn’t matter what language the film is in; the dramatic narrative of the film was such that it was difficult to empathize with the main characters (agreed, Anton was an alcoholic in the first film as well, and this was merely a carry on from that, but he still seemed a little distant regardless) and the overwhelming metaphorical imagery, the dynamic special effects (some of which are okay, some of which are utterly brilliant) and a weirdly jarring musical soundtrack make Day Watch a confusing and frustrating viewing experience.
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