Night Watch (2004)

This film is widely known, I believe. Which is unusual for a Russian film, since we normally only hear anything about Russian cinema when the occasional arthouse piece is nominated for an Oscar or a Golden Globe.

Sergey Lukyanenko’s series of novels, the first of which is the basis for Night Watch, is a sprawling epic averaging 500 pages per book. Director Timur Bekmambetov tries to make his film equally epic, it seems – failing to cut back enough dead wood to make his story fit smoothly into the film’s two hours.

Everything about this film is solid enough: acting, directing, score music, action scenes, camera. Nothing here betrays the fact that this film was made on a fairly modest budget far away from Hollywood and its pool of talent and expertise. And while I would shy away from calling this a “good” film or a “must-see”, I can confidently claim that this film is not looking or feeling any different (or any more confusing) than something like its contemporary Constantine, which was shot in LA on 25 times the budget.


Although it occasionally pops up on lists of vampire films, Night Watch is not your classical vampire film. The vampires in Night Watch are merely a large group of the supernatural “others”, as they are called, many of whom seem to drink blood but it is never clearly outlined if there are “real” vampires on the one hand and other demons/witches drinking blood on the other, or whether they are in the end one and the same.

Still, vampirism is relatively prominent as a plot device, especially in the first half of the film; but this film is not about vampires. It is about the main character’s entanglement in guilt and atonement. The characters surrounding him are interesting and well-drawn, but their motivation is at times as confusing as the plot (which I am not even attempting to explain). One weakness of this film is the fact that many characters seem to have a number of confusing and arbitrary powers which just happen to be mentioned or shown exactly as the moment arrives when that particular power might come in handy.


A nice touch in this film are the Buffy scenes running on TV about half way through the film (allegedly, this happens in the international version only). I would probably rate this film at about 6.0 out of 10 (imdb’s current rating is 6.5). There are worse ways to spend two hours than watching this film, but I still cannot wholly recommend it as I fail to see any real reason why you should see this. There are just too many good films out there that would be a shame to miss. This is not one of them.

But perhaps, if you are interested in film making, you might want to see what they achieved here on a relatively modest budget.





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