Regardless, Night Watch Rocks! As the film begins we are introduced to "The Others" (apparently not localized to just the Lost island). These "Others" are segregated into the "Dark Others" (comprised primarily by Vampires) and the "Light Others" (comprised by various Shape Shifters). When one particularly vicious medieval battle proves that neither side can ever truly win (only decimate each other), the leaders of each group call a lasting truce, which goes on for centuries. From this point on no newly-minted "Other" can never be forcibly coerced to one side or the other. Rather they much choose their path into "The Gloom". The Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor) is formed of Light Others to police the dark, while the Day Watch (Dnevnoi Dozor) is formed to police their lighter brethren.
However, this truce is threatened in the modern era, starting with the induction of Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabensky) into the light side back in 1992. When he's convinced to allow a witchy woman to abort his estranged wife's unborn child (whom he is promised was fathered by another man), the Nochnoi Dozor interfere. Twelve years later he's one of their most trusted operatives, on the hunt for misbehaving Vamps, and believe you me, he finds them. And believe you me, it almost kills him this time.
Soon the Dnevnoi Dozor is investigating, the Nochnoi Dozor is on the defensive, and Anton is swept into turmoil. He's suddenly at odds with his vampire neighbors (Aleksei Chadov, and Valeri Zolotukhin), and is being scrutinized by his new partner, an Owl Shape Shifting woman named Olga (the briefly nude Galina Tyunina) to go with his Bear shape shifting friend Ilya (Aleksandr Samojlenko) and his Tiger Cub shape shifting friend Lena (Anna Slyusaryova). However, amid all of this Anton is most adamant about tracking down the twelve-year old boy who was to be the vampires' prey, Yegor (Dmitri Martynov), and the mysterious cursed woman around whom a dark vortex has formed.
I could mention Geser (Vladimir Menshov) and Zavulon (Viktor Verzhbitsky), respectively the light and dark leaders at the ends of this twisted tug-o-war rope, but I think this is confusing enough as it is. Night Watch is that, at least part of the time, and it's clear that the inspired screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis and Timur Bekmambetov (who also directed) doesn't bridge quite every point in the source novel by Sergei Lukyanenko. However, these points are the exception, not the rule, and one has to expect a gap or two in a plot this rich and varied. The film is exciting and stimulating (unless you see it with hyperactive nerds) and leads to a fitting summit as all the dominoes fall not to a conclusion, but a new beginning, setting up the sequel Day Watch and the third in the trilogy (tentatively known as Dusk Watch).
Night Watch broke every box office record in Russia in its initial run, and had a budget to match. Therefore, the special effects (while possibly not blowing all Hollywood CGI off the map) are pretty damned good. This feels like a very earthy, textured The Matrix, coupled with all the things that the Underworld movies missed. The acting, directing and use of music all combine to make this a very fine film. Another thing that separates Night Watch from most films is its use of subtitles as part of the action. These are no mere white on white dialogue strings. The subtitles here appear in various parts of the screen and interact with the movement in the frame, occasionally animating themselves into oblivion or wiping away and coming back. For example, as Yegor is summoned by calling vampires, the subtitle of "Come to Me" appears on the screen, then pops away into a wisp of red mist. This isn't a cheap gimmick as it never attempts to (nor succeeds in) distracting from the main story. This is simply a great way of bringing the subtitles into life along side the dialogue. Don't worry, this isn't an annoying cartoon thing, this is legitimate and sparingly used, only to great affect.
Night Watch is a keeper and a great set up for the next two films. However, the apex is a fitting finale for those who like their trilogies self-contained. Considering some of the disconnections and gaps, coupled with one of the coolest action/ horror films I've ever seen, Night Watch gets Four Stars out of Five! I may learn to speak Russian. One thing is for sure, I'll never walk into a dark room, with flies all around and take it for granted either. Also, I'll never enter a theatre with big fat nerds in shorts again. Comic Book Guy is cooler, and in better shape. See you in the next shape-shifting reel. As long as it doesn't shift into a Pear!
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