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June 2007

DAY WATCH (Dnevnoi Dozor)

By Julian Roman

DAY WATCH (Dnevnoi Dozor)


Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Producers: Anatoly Maximov, Konstantin Ernst
Screenwriters: Sergei Lukyanenko, Timur Bekmambetov, Alexander Talal
Cast: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Valery Zolotukhin, Maria Poroshina, Galina Tunina, Victor Verzhbitsky, Dima Martynov

   

After a year of release in Europe, Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov’s Day Watch (Dnevnoi Dozor) makes its way to American cinemas. The sequel to the worldwide hit Night Watch; Day Watch continues the epic tale of the truce between the Light Others and the vampiric Dark Others. The story picks up a year after the first film. Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) is riddled with the guilt of losing his son Yegor (Dmitry Martynov) to Zavulon (Viktor Verzhbitsky), leader of the Dark Others. It seems that Yegor has been secretly attacking humans, a crime, if discovered, would mean his death. Anton secretly conceals Yegor’s evil deeds until a confrontation between them uncovers an even greater truth. Anton’s partner, Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina) from the first film, comes to his rescue and demonstrates incredibly power. Her battle with Yegor reveals that they are the ‘Great Dark Other’ and the ‘Great Light Other’, super beings whose blood cannot be spilled, or the truce will be broken forever and an apocalypse will descend on humanity. Anton realizes that the stakes have become too high. He seeks a legendary artifact, The Chalk of Destiny, to right his wrongs and preserve the truce.

There’s a lot going here. It took me a while to remember the details of the first film and understand what was happening. Most important, Yegor knows that Anton tried to kill him in the womb. This is the reason for Yegor’s hatred and Anton’s guilt. Also, and I constantly mixed this up, the Night Watch are the good guys. They watch the Dark Others and keep them in check. The Day Watch are the bad guys. These are the forces of Zavulon trying to control Yegor and the world.

Day Watch is stylistically very different from anything we normally see in the United States. It’s a lush film, bathed in an opulent darkness and dread. It has a Russian sensibility and embraces the character driven philosophy of European films. Timor Bekmambetov doesn’t emulate or copy traditional western vampire stories. But he was smart enough to take the “Hollywood” approach to special effects and fight scenes. This way the film has the popcorn spectacle we (American audiences) expect from epic battles between good and evil.

The film is in Russian with English subtitles, which should not stop you from seeing it. It’s a radically different take on a genre that, quite frankly, has become incredibly boring. Any horror and action fan tired of the norm will embrace Day Watch. The rumor is that the third installment, due to the series’ popularity so far, may be shot in English. I sincerely hope that’s true. Timor Bekmambetov needs to come to Hollywood and show the big-budget Americans how it’s done.