YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Centuries-long battle continues in `Day Watch'

June 01, 2007|Kevin Crust | Times Staff Writer

Many critics found the 2004 Russian sci-fi action film "Night Watch" (released here in 2006) incomprehensible, impenetrable and altogether puzzling. They're not likely to embrace its sequel, "Day Watch," either, but they may find that unraveling the dense mythology is beside the point.

Fans of the first film will be pleased to discover "Day Watch" to be a satisfying continuation of the planned trilogy, a highly-caffeinated assault on our senses by writer-director Timur Bekmambetov that advances the story while upping the ante on action and effects. Based on the novels by Sergei Lukyanenko (who also co-wrote the screenplay) and Vladimir Vasiliev, the series depicts the ongoing battle between the forces of light and dark that has been simmering since a medieval truce placed a lid on their warring tendencies.

The contemporary version of this detente between good and evil takes place in a parallel Moscow where the super-empowered participants keep a watchful eye on one another (the good/light guys are on the Night Watch and bad/dark guys are on the Day Watch). At the center of the brewing storm is Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabensky) of the Light, whose young son Egor (Dima Martynov) has been groomed by the Dark side to be their Great Other.

Making Anton's life more complicated is the fact that he's in love with Svetlana (Maria Poroshina), who is being trained to be his side's Great Other and will inevitably come in conflict with Egor.

Oh, yeah, and Anton has been framed for murder, an incident that could trigger an end to the nearly 1,000-year truce and cause the end of the world.

Naysayers are best to approach the film as a roller-coaster ride, letting the trivia of the centuries wash over them while keeping their eyes on the prize -- in this case, the long lost Chalk of Fate. Literally, a piece of chalk whose possessor can change their past as well as their destiny, it's an artifact each side will pay dearly for.

If one doesn't take the cosmology too seriously, there's fun to be had in the action-driven mishmash of fantastic folklore. The allegorical father-son tale (so very Russian) is a veritable venti frappuccino of "Star Wars"-like philosophizing with a triple infusion of "The Matrix" and a dash of "The Omen," plus a plethora of other movie reference points.

The novelty of all this chaos funneling through a milieu usually reserved for art-house flicks gives the films a kick that might not otherwise be there. The acting is also uniformly good -- in a scenery-chewing kind of way -- with Vladimir Menshov and Victor Verzhbitskiy as Geser and Zavulon, the leaders of the Night Watch and Day Watch, respectively, especially proficient at portraying the fierceness of supernatural bureaucrats who have been going at it since they were generals in the armies of the Middle Ages.

Visually, the grimy snow of Moscow has never looked so good and scenes such as a sports car clinging to the curved side of a luxury hotel before making a bravura entrance down a hall and into a room are great eye candy. The nifty subtitles from the first film that morph into drops of blood or burst into pieces falling away into the distance return for an encore.

Bekmambetov guides the action through fast-paced set pieces, occasionally slowing down (perhaps too much) for bursts of narrative but almost always regaining the momentum quickly. There's an episodic quality to the slickly done sequences that sometimes makes you feel like you're watching a Clio Awards highlight reel; however, the director saves the biggest and noisiest for last, allowing for a real blowout of a climax.

Curiously, the centuries-long battle between good and evil boils down to a surprisingly simple conclusion built on an emotion. The ending is so definitive and seemingly conclusive, it whets one's appetite as to where we will head in "Dusk Watch," the trilogy's finale.

"Day Watch." In Russian with English subtitles. MPAA rating: R for violence. Running time:

2 hours, 20 minutes. Exclusively at Pacific's Arclight, 6360 W. Sunset Blvd. (at Ivar Avenue), (323) 464-4226; the Landmark, 10850 W. Pico Blvd. at West-

wood Boulevard, West L.A. (310) 281-8233.

Los Angeles Times Articles