If you see a poster that advertises a quote like “cool as hell”, it would be in your best interest to take such a contradictory statement to heart from those trying to sell it. The hubbub over Nightwatch is that it’s the next great genre picture to come out of Russia. The last one I can remember off the top of my head was Solaris in 1972, so either the hype has been worth the wait or very few positives ever come out of the Motherland. A fantasy epic involving the battles of good and evil that reportedly is a trilogy you can await to hit stateside the next few years. Notice how I say “you” can wait for it, because as first acts go, Nightwatch is an overhyped, underthought vortex of boredom that knocks the credibility of fantasy geekdom down another few dungeon levels.What sounds like the vague description of any fantasy world cinema from The Lord of the Rings to The Matrix, the forces of light and dark have been fighting for centuries. The two leaders eventually formed a truce to co-exist. Guardians of the light would watch over the darkness and vice versa. Your players consist of vampires, psychics, shapeshifters and other assorted loons. Circa 1992 Moscow comes along Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) arranging a pact with a witch to punish the ex-fiancee who cheated on him by destroying her unborn child. This is a big no-no. As the nightwatchers crash in to stop it, Anton begins discovering his powers as an “Other” and he is recruited into the neighborhood watch.
Fast-forward 12 years later where Anton mucks things up by killing a vampire in self-defense creating strife in the cease fire. The vamp’s girlfriend, offered to him as a token of goodwill like food stamps, wanders the streets with psychic thoughts to find a 12-year old boy. Coincidence? The movie would like you to believe that while it convolutes matters with a cursed woman (whose explanation for her misfortune has to be heard to be believed), a search for the neutral “Great Other” who by choosing sides will disrupt balance to the force. (Where do they get these ideas?) and a city that never seems to wonder about its growing crow population.With Nightwatch, first comes boredom and then outright silliness. Somewhere in the middle is some action so slapdash and uninspired that to be called derivative would be a step up. Whatever rules are laid out for the two sides are sketchy at best and punishment appears to result in little more than a ticket. It would be great to see someone talk their way out of the write-up except its insincere self-importance that this is a story for the ages leaves no room in its cheek for tongue. Instead it’s planted firmly over the lips in a big raspberry encouraged by fantasy geeks so desperate for the next film to form a cult around that they’ll jump for any Region 2+ DVD or something they can download on the internet. Take Timur Bekmambetov’s name off the director’s chair and put Uwe Boll’s in his place, the exact same footage would be scrutinized and laughed at just as Boll’s Dungeon Siege saga is likely to be. Please hold all bets until Neil Marshall’s The Descent hit theaters this summer. We’ve already got the garbage known as the impending Underworld trilogy here in America, so please for the sake of the light and the dark, go defect somewhere else.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Fantasia Festival For more in the 2005 Fantasia Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.