Night Watch 2004 (Nochnoy dozor): A 4 out of 10 Movie Review
Who says that men can’t multitask? I am sitting here writing a review of the Timur Bekmambetov cult classic film: Night Watch (Nochnoy dozor – 2004) whilst listening to a bit of Led Zeppelin. Similarly, one of the biggest issues for movie lovers is that most do not just watch the film (especially a DVD). The fact is most of us watch a movie: whilst arguing who has the right to hold the remote, ironing, fumbling on the sofa with the latest love of your life or even having your hair checked for head lice (don’t ask: bloody kids).
This causes a problem with subtitled films. It is difficult to do anything but watch them, for you need to read what is happening on screen. It is because of this that many of these charlatans have yet to experience the joy of Amelie, the brilliance that is Battle Royale (not the awful sequel) or the utter taboo-breaking weirdness of Visitor Q (Bijitâ Q). To those people I have one message: “STOP PLAYING WITH YOUR HAIR, DOING THE IRONING AND FUMBLING ON THE SOFA AND APPRECIATE A GOOD MOVIE WHEN YOU ARE PRESENTED WITH ONE!” Ahem. Sorry about that. It is such a shame when quite brilliant films are ignored when the only thing against them is their foreign language. Dubbing a film is never quite the same.
There is no problem with this particular Russian language, subtitled movie. If you ignore the first few minutes, your attention is soon brought screaming back to the television due to the utter drug induced activities on screen (allegedly). Yes a great deal of weirdness occurs and it becomes clear that this is not an ordinary “vampire flick”. When you do pay attention, you marvel at the perfection of the subtitles. Yes. I did say “perfection”. I dare you to argue with how these are portrayed. It is a pleasure to read them. So many foreign language films just place very uninteresting subtitles on screen that clearly omit small details from the spoken word. They are more often than not split between sentences, causing you to try and figure out what is actually being said. How confusing for all of us laymen! The subtitles in Night Watch turn red, fade in and out, and appear behind scenery as the camera pans across. I loved the film before I even got to the main storyline. This amount of effort has to be respected. I for one would hope that other productions would follow suit. Somehow I doubt it though. It’s just too much like effort!
If you are wondering where you have heard the name Timur Bekmambetov, he is the director of the new film (reviewed earlier in the week) called Wanted. After attending the James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie film, I had mentioned how impressive some of the camera shots and effects were to a friend and they had pointed me in the direction of Night Watch (Bekmambetov’s fourth film).
So I was sitting there expecting load of rubbish. Like most people in the world, I distrust any advice given to me and firmly believe that it should be given out and rarely received (advice that is). I think that makes me a solipsist. Either way, I reluctantly expected a low budget, badly made up vampire film similar to Underworld. I was wrong. This movie is smarter than Underworld. Unfortunately there are no occurrences where Kate Beckinsale runs around in tight leather, but I’ll forgive that for now!
Night Watch is the first of a tetralogy (4 parts to a story) which includes Day Watch, Twilight Watch and Final Watch. Night Watch was made in 2004, Day Watch was made in 2006, and Twilight Watch is being made (by the same director) and is due to be released in 2009. I have yet to see Day Watch, but plan on doing so in the near future (look out for a review).
The story (albeit confusing for individuals with low firing brain cells) centres around a balance of two factions of “Others”: Night Watch and Day Watch. You’d think that Day Watch are good and Night Watch are bad, but both are pretty awful. These are not exactly typical protagonists; being people you’d ignore in the street. Somehow though, it works. There is a light amount of humour, some awesome effects (I don’t use that surfer-word likely) and a woman who looks like Deirdre Barlow from Coronation Street (Google her if you don’t know what I’m on about). Anyway, Deirdre is the “cursed one” and she’s about to bring the last act of the Bible down on our lazy arses and one man can stop her. Unfortunately, the bloke is incapable of sporting a decent haircut at any time, hires a voodoo woman (ish) to kill his wife’s child and drinks blood by the glass (only reluctantly). Not what you’d consider a “good man” by any means. Nope. You’d consider him a blood drinking bum, in need of a serious personality makeover and a rather large quantity of deodorant. Nevertheless he is our protagonist for this piece and the focus of the story (as the title suggests) is the Night Watch. One would imagine then, that the focus for its sequel is Day Watch, but that is just conjecture.
Despite the large quantity of weirdness, a shout must go out to the main actor trying to make sense of it all. Konstantin Khabensky is well cast and plays it convincingly well. It is unfortunate that lazy arsed reviewers such as myself could not be bothered to look up the correct spelling for Russian names and give them credit when it is most due. Perhaps they would get some more recognition for their work. I doubt it somehow, which is a great shame. Okay, so there some unusual actor choices but overall (except for Deirdre / Svetlana played by Mariya Poroshina) most were impressive.
Despite the good and bad being forced to live with each other due to an equal balance of power and a truce being made, this soon falls apart as the story unfolds. There is something about this type of storyline that I really enjoy. The best part of Brendan Fraser’s Bedazzled was a scene where the Devil and (supposedly) God were playing chess. This understanding of balance in the world really strikes a chord somewhere in this cold heart of mine. Perhaps I’m just hoping a random person will come along and push the scales right over. Who knows? The story just take an interesting (and unexpected move) when Deirdre goes through an alcoholics anonymous moment and all is fine again. This felt like a lazy move, and ultimately let the whole story down somewhat.
What I do know is that despite its weirdness, I enjoyed the film immensely. I believe I enjoyed it even more, because I was not expecting it. Not everyone will enjoy this though. Vampire films have only a select audience. If you are interested in the origins of the directorial style of Timur Bekmambetov and how Wanted came to be directed by him, I suggest you take a gander at Night Watch. You’ll understand how he got to direct one of the best films of 2008 (to date).
3.8 out of 10 (What do you want? A medal)?
Look out for the review of its sequel: Day Watch.
Were you confused with Night Watch? Was it a bit too drug-induced for your liking? What was with the owl? Let me know your thoughts on the matter by commenting below. (Bear in mind, that for some reason, comments are not functioning correctly on Internet Explorer. I will ensure that this problem is fixed soon).