Nochnoy dozor (Night watch) is a 2004 Russian action/fantasy/horror film directed by Timur Bekmambetov and based on the book written by Sergej Luk’janenko. It supposedly is the first chapter of a trilogy which remains incomplete as of today because after directing the sequel Dnevnoy dozor (Day watch) in 2006, Bekmambetov lost interest in it and devoted himself to quality projects such as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) and the Ben Hur remake (2016).
The plot is anything but original. In the world there are creatures like vampires, shapeshifters, seers… which are called Others and are divided between good and evil. There has been a fragile truce for centuries and a prophecy says that a chosen one will arrive, pick one of the two sides, and change the balance forever. The interesting twist is that good and evil face each other in today’s Russia (meanwhile in Russia…), with the good Night Watch controlling that the bad guys don’t exaggerate, and the Day Watch doing the same with the good guys. My spoilers end here!
The film is a mix between Blade (1998), Dark City (1998), and The Matrix (1999) brought to today’s Moscow, which is dark, wet, and dirty. None of the characters is particularly nice nor pleasant, and despite the theoretically clear division between good and evil, in fact it’s not easy to understand who’s on which side. There are some nice ideas like, for example, the vampires seeing people like bundles of veins and arteries, the dark cinematography, the epic scope of the story… but I honestly don’t have any desire to see the sequel. The action is badly shot, it’s confusing, and the director ignores the 180 degrees rule too much for the audience to understand something (and not for artistic reasons as did Kubrick in the bathroom dialogue scene in The Shining!). The story is fragmented, confused, it almost seems told by one of these messed-up Others who fight each other on screen. The soundtrack feels dated: it was very fashionable in those years to use rock/metal in the soundtracks of this type of movies, but in retrospect it doesn’t seem like a particularly good choice.
To conclude: I find Night Watch a nice attempt to make an epic fantasy movie in an unfamiliar setting like today’s Russia, but unfortunately it’s not a successful attempt in my opinion. And the subsequent terrible movies made by the director make me think that I’m even being too kind with my review… Ciao!