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Night Watch (2006)

Nochnoi Dozor

All that stands between light and darkness is the Night Watch.

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 114 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Few sci-fi/fantasy films are able to achieve balance. Some have spectacular effects, yet their stories are either trite or overly complex. Others put forth an intriguing mythology, only to be bogged down by bad acting or sub-par effects work. Earlier this year, director Timur Bekmambetov proved he could juggle all the balls with Wanted, a surprisingly entertaining and well executed sci-fi thriller, but way back in 2004 he did it even better with this first in a trilogy fight between good and evil.

In 1992, Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabenskiy) is hoping a strange old lady with a penchant for magic can help him win back the woman he loves—and when he learns she’s carrying a child, possibly fathered by another man, he gives the OK to go ahead with a spell that will take care of the problem. But when the ceremony is broken up b a group of police-types, Anton learns he is an Other, and soon after he joins the Night Watch, keeping an eye on the bad guys. This is our—and Anton’s—introduction to the world of the “Others”—supernatural beings living among humans with the free will to choose whether they will follow the path of good or evil. The two sides have been co-existing for centuries, each side kept in check by the other. Fast-forward to 12 years later, and Anton finds himself in the middle of more impending apocalypse drama than he can handle.

There’s a lot of story to digest here, and I didn’t cover even half of it. It didn’t feel like too much while I was watching, though, which is one of the things that makes this such a satisfying watch. Based on a series of books by Sergei Lukyanenko—which I haven’t read, by the way—I can only imagine that there’s a lot that didn’t even make it to the movie, but what is here is a fresh, unique fantasy thriller that manages to be complicated without ever becoming too convoluted. The effects are reminiscent of the Wachowskis, though it’s definitely not a Matrix rip-off; instead of the dark and sterile atmosphere usually reserved for sci-fi movies of this ilk, colors pop and make shots feel warm and artistic. Also, any movie that gives a shout-out to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”—especially a Russian movie—has a special place in my heart. My biggest complaint is with the ending resolution/revelation, which, while I recognize serves to move us along to the next part of the trilogy, came off rushed and tacked on, as if to say, “OK, we need to get to here, so we’ll do this … AAAAND end.” I mean, it serves its purpose, but feels like a forced climax to an otherwise perfectly paced story.

It's Got: Cool effects, A Buffy cameo of sorts, a well-developed story.

It Needs: A better lead up to the ending.

DVD Extras English version includes: Extended ending ("The Roof") with optional commentary by director Timur Bekmambetov (option to view in English or Russian audio); Sneak peek at upcoming Night Watch sequels; Bonus trailers —Russian version includes: Audio commentary by director Timur Bekmambetov (subtitled in English, Spanish, French); Text commentary by novelist Sergei Lukyanenko (subtitled in English, Spanish, French). DVD Extras Rating: 6/10


It has a few problems, but overall, this first installment in the Watch trilogy will pull you in with its unique approach to fantasy and adventure.