Day Watch
Director: Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch)
Writer: Timur Bekmambetov
Novel: Sergei Lukyanenko, Vladimir Vasiliev
Producers: Konstantin Ernst, Anatoli Maksimov
Starring: Konstantin Khabensky, Mariya Poroshina, Vladimir Menshov, Galina Tyunina, Viktor Verzhbitsky, Zhanna Friske, Dmitry Martynov
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 132 min
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reviewed by Andrew James
     People hear the word "Russian" when it comes to describing a film and they immediately are turned off. This is unfortunate as Day Watch is one of the better films I've seen this year. Full of action, great effects and a storyline that is both engrossing and fun. When it comes to big budget, special effects films, apparently the Russians do do some things better than us Americans.

      Day Watch is the continuation of a film from a couple year back called Night Watch, in which two groups of "others", light and dark, maintain a symbiosis and a balance in the world of humans. The day watch (dark side) comb the streets during the day to make sure the "light side" guys stay in line and don't cause trouble. The night watch crew is vice-versa. If there is any blood spilled between the two factions at any time, war will break out and destroy the world. Of course, there are evil doers out there that want exactly this. It may sound sort of like a story from the Underworld franchise, but I can assure you it is nothing of the kind as it is light years ahead in terms of script and cinematic achievement.

      The visuals in Day Watch are where it's at. Stunning to look at, but not so much that they are distracting. They are there to help the storyline advance and not necessarily just to show off their technical wonder (with a couple small exceptions). Some of these are smaller, artsy type of stuff: like a dreamworld known as "the gloom" that is very surreal and blurry, with light trails and timelapse photography. Others are grandiose and eye-popping like a red sports car driving across the side of a building or a city being destroyed by hundreds of thousands of tiny, toy balls. It is absolutely enrapturing.

      The story starts with a bang immediately with a very intense action sequence and a plot point that will drive much of the rest of the film. Often times a movie will start this way, then bring us back to earth and calm our sense with loads of narrative and storyline before raising the bar again. Not in Day Watch. Once the opening sequence has ended, we flash forward in time only to watch another pretty intense, effects-laden, action sequence. From here on out, I was highly involved in the film and its plot. The rollercoaster ride that followed was pure joy.

      I have to admit that although I really liked the film's predecessor (Night Watch), I remember that my biggest complaint was the fact that it was a bit hard to follow, convoluted and slightly confusing. Day Watch seems to have remedied that by making things much more simple and straight forward. That isn't to say you won't have to think, it just means that you'll be able to follow events much closer and with much more understanding

      One of the things I forgot about that I really liked in the first film was the way in which it used its subtitles to explore emotion and impact. Day Watch does this exact same thing with the exact same results: terrific. People are often turned off by subtitles which I do sort of understand. The Russians also seem to realize this so they've made their subtitles actually fun to read. If a guy is trying to yell through a glass window, the subtitles are slightly small, maybe blurry and also vibrating just a tad. Other times the words are placed on an interesting place on a wall to make them look like a sign. Maybe they'll drip down the side of a building colored in red to simulate blood. It is absolutely brilliant. Sometimes these ideas are used to display emotion or strength with different fonts or size. Other times, they're used just for fun; like coloring the word "mint" green for no reason other than the fact that it is amusing. A great tactic that works well and with this single stroke props the film up on my scale a full extra star.

      Something else that might turn people off has to do with star power. Anyone in this film you'll recognize? Probably not. But so what? Just because Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp isn't in a movie doesn't mean it's not worth watching. In fact, most of my favorite films of the past year had non-actors (United 93) or relative new-comers (Little Children) in the lead roles and it's arguable that this is what made them better. No preconceived notions of how the character should behave based on the actor playing him/her. So the fact that these are Russian actors and not tinseltown millionaires in the movie should make little difference.

      It is rumored that a third film is soon to be released and that it was purchased by Fox and is to be filmed in English. This is bad news. I can't predict the future of course, but the way in which Day Watch is wrapped up so nicely it is disheartening to think that they might ruin it for Hollywood profits. Though slightly predictable from frame one about how we would end up, I liked how it worked out and I can't think of a better ending to the franchise. I really hope Hollywood doesn't come along and ruin this. Alas, I have no doubt that they will.

      It disgusts me that this time of year so much attention is paid to shit films like Spiderman 3 and Pirates 3 when a big budget, action film like this is shunned by theaters and movie-goers alike. It is so much better in almost every respect. Even the effects are, although cheaper, used in a way that makes them so much more believable and realistic, that it beats watching a guy swinging endlessly around a pirate ship on a rope by a long shot.

      It is not a must to have seen the first film to enjoy Day Watch. The basic premise and idea of what happened is narrated to us quickly and gets us caught up with what is going on. I'm almost tempted to say don't bother with Night Watch and skip right to the good stuff with this film; although it wouldn't hurt to (re)acquaint yourself with the characers and basic premise. Still, there aren't really any nods or references to the first film that you won't get if you haven't seen said movie.

      Day Watch has everything a summer blockbuster should have (except an audience and a corrupt studio to back it) and it's a real shame that this movie will be tough to find in theaters. It's got laughs, intrigue, action, great effects and most importantly an interesting storyline with decent actors and characters. If you feel the need for fun this summer, look no further than Day Watch.

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IMDb profile - full cast and crew
Official Site