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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.63%
Worth A Look: 20.93%
Just Average41.86%
Pretty Crappy: 2.33%
Sucks: 23.26%

5 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Day Watch
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by Peter Sobczynski

"You Bite Up My Life"
4 stars

As faithful readers have no doubt figured out for themselves over time, I have a deep and unreserved affection for screw-loose fantasy epics that are filled with a heedless and joyous imagination and are cheerfully willing to spit in the face of anything even remotely resembling common sense. A perfect example of this kind of filmmaking was last year’s Russian import “Night Watch,” a deranged and wildly over-the-top spectacular that offered us a demented clash between the forces of Light & Dark that posited that vampires, both nice and nasty, were not only all around us but were locked in an eternal stalemate that, if broken, could lead to the end of the world as we know it. Granted, it didn’t make much sense from a narrative standpoint but it was filmed in such a visually breathtaking style and told with such energy and humor that only a total frump could walk away from it without being giddily entertained on some dumb, fundamental level. Now the sequel, “Day Watch,” is upon us and as seemingly impossible as it sounds, it is even bigger, wilder and weirder than its predecessor and while it is unlikely to convert those flywheels who didn’t spark to the nutty charms of “Night Watch,” those who did are likely to find themselves staggering out of the theater with popped eyes and a goofy grin while muttering, a la Bill Murray during the climax of “Tootsie,” “That is one nutty apocalypse.”

Like “Night Watch,” “Day Watch” is a film that has so much going on that it requires no less than two prologues to set up the story. The first essentially recaps the first film and explains the fragile truce between the good vampires (known as the Night Watch) and the bad vampires (the Day Watch), how each one is in search of a “Great One”–a person whose supernatural abilities are so pronounced that they can shift the balance of power forever depending on which side they align with–and how Light vampire Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) finds himself in contact with two such people, a seemingly cursed woman named Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina), who sides with the Light, and his own estranged (and you can hardly blame him) son, who appears to be drifting towards the Dark. The second prologue involves the introduction of something called The Chalk of Fate, an ancient piece of chalk with the power to grant its owner anything the moment that they write it out. In the best case scenario, such a piece of chalk would mean that your local diner will never run out of today’s special and in the worst case, depending on what today’s special is, it could lead to the destruction of the world.

While offering a plot summary of “Day Watch” is nearly impossible–this is the kind of film where you take voluminous notes during the screening to make sure that you have everything down and they look like the scribblings of a crazy man when you reread them a few days later–I can offer a few bullet points to help you along. Although still working for Night Watch, Anton continues to try to protect his son from completely turning over to the Dark and when he and Svetlana catch him attacking a human (a no-no in this world) while on patrol, he takes it upon himself to steal some key evidence linking him to the crime. At the same time, a couple of Day Watchers are murdered (a big no-no in this world) and Anton is accused of the crimes. As a result, Anton is forced to change bodies with sexy fellow Night Watcher Olga (Galina Tyunina) in order to investigate the crime–a fact that he doesn’t immediately divulge to Svetlana, who believes that she is talking and showering in front of Olga. Oh yeah, that darn Chalk of Life also comes into play when it is discovered that it was secretly taken from its assumed resting place back in the 1940's and a frantic search for it breaks out between the forces of Light and Dark. All of these plot strands converge (perhaps coagulate) during a climactic birthday party for Anton’s son that is a sort of vampire-bat mitzvah to mark his full allegiance to the Dark–Anton arrives to save the day but discovers that not even possession of the Chalk of Fate may be able to prevent the two forces from breaking out into a full-scale war with disastrous consequences for both the living and the undead.

Of course, most people who are even vaguely interested in seeing a film like “Day Watch” aren’t particularly interested in the nuts and bolts of the plot. No, they are more curious about the Good Parts–the kind of visually extravagant moments that force even the most jaded moviegoers, the kind who pride themselves on having seen everything before, to sit up and take notice. “Day Watch” is crammed full of such moments–so many that it plays at times like a reel of highlights from other movies–and since I don’t want to ruin all of the astonishments it has in store, I will only mention a couple. The first, which you have probably already seen in the trailer, is a bit where a Day Watcher decides to barge in on her leader by literally driving her car up the side of the skyscraper he is ensconced in and into his office–a move that doesn’t seem to strike anyone involved as especially strange or unusual, not even the cleaning staff. (Perhaps in the deleted scenes section of the DVD, we will get to see the scene showing her getting the car out of the building.) The apocalyptic battle at the climax has a lot of neat stuff as well, such as a killer yo-yo wielded by Anton’s son and a gigantic Ferris Wheel rolling down the streets of Moscow in what I presume is director Timur Bekmambetov’s homage to Steven Spielberg’s similarly overstuffed masterpiece “1941.” I also liked such smaller bits as a bloody bit of meat thrown against a wall morphing into a subtitle (oh yeah, the entire film is in Russian) and the oddball comedy of Svetlana and Anton going out on their first kind-of, sort-of date despite the fact that the latter is currently residing within the body of Olga–in a situation like that, most people would probably just order in and watch a DVD but not here. (Of course, the aforementioned shower scene probably will probably fall under the heading of a Good Part for many in the audience as well for reasons that will be evident for anyone who sees the film.)

Obviously, “Day Watch” is cinematic eye candy at its most lavish but if you look at it a little closer, you will see that there is more to it than just the visual effects setpieces. The strange thing is that even though it tells a story that is virtually impossible to recount in a coherent fashion after watching it, it does unfold in a manner straightforward enough to allows you to pretty much figure out what is going on at any given point. In bringing all of this to the screen, Bekmambetov utilizes what is perhaps the only possible directorial approach for something this nutty–he just puts the pedal to the metal and barrels through without ever once pausing to allow the audience to catch its breath or begin to apply the kind of rational thought that is the kiss of death to something this decidedly odd. The actors take a similar approach to portraying their characters–they are playing ridiculous parts in a ridiculous story but instead of winking to the audience to let us know they are in on the joke, they take to the roles with the kind of seriousness and dedication that they might have given to a production of “The Cherry Orchard.” This is not to say that the performances here are going to be the ones to beat at Oscar time but they do help to ground the film in some kind of reality, for lack of a better term, and prevent it from completely spinning off the rails.

And now we come to the end of the review, the part of the program where I am supposed to suggest whether the film in question is worthy of your hard-earned time and money. In the case of something like “Day Watch,” this is a tricky endeavor indeed since the things that I enjoyed most about it–chiefly the over-the-top visuals and a wild narrative style that feels at times as if Bekmambetov is literally making things up as he goes along even though all the elements are layered in pretty intricately–are the very things that are likely to send others into fits of annoyed rage. My guess is that you pretty much know what kind of moviegoer you are and your tolerance level for something along these lines. If you are the latter type, feel free to skip this film without hesitation and I hope you have fun at “Fantastic Four 2" this weekend. If you are the former, however, go to whatever lengths you need to in order to check it out because I can all but guarantee that you are going to have a blast watching it.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15971&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/15/07 01:47:46
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell not bad but the first film is better 4 stars
3/02/09 Karamashi Excellent, Underated, and an awesom film. 5 stars
2/05/09 PabloHoney An embarrassing mess. That it was a huge hit in Russia reveals an extreme cultural poverty 1 stars
5/14/08 TreeTiger A cinematic liquified turd that you have to drink with your nose - not a good experience... 1 stars
5/14/08 Luke very hard to follow, like watching a movie in fast forward. pretty though 1 stars
3/12/08 AlabamaT subtitles/dub don't work 4 me on ACTION MOVIES!! 1 stars
11/18/07 Sayuri I absolutely love the film, I could watch this movie countless times without tiring! <3 5 stars
11/12/07 othree The Euro throws you, but interesting enough if enjoy out of the norm. 4 stars
10/23/07 William Goss Some cool shots, but is about as worth the hassle of following as its predecessor. 2 stars
10/06/07 Aiden Great fun, ignore the haters. It's not Tarkovsky but it's well worth the runtime. 4 stars
10/05/07 Andrey Brilliant film. The reviewer above is an utter fool. 5 stars
6/17/07 dmitry samarov Great !!!! A series that's more fun than Matrix and Star Wars put together 5 stars
6/12/07 Michael This movie is superb i enjoyed it alot, the russian film industry has some excellent movies 5 stars
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  01-Jun-2007 (R)
  DVD: 30-Oct-2007



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