Night Watch (Timur Bekmambetov – 2004) D-

What is it about some movies that make me want to write an essay about them? Some are so good, some are the opposite. Night Watch is of the latter kind. It sucks and it took me three trials to finish it since I kept falling asleep and having to restart it. It has so many bad qualities in a high-end-should’ve-been-good production that it makes me mad. A director given –in Russian cinema standards- major resources and he comes up with this quagmire.
  The plot line is muddled, dumb and makes no sense. It’s not that I did not ‘get it’. I do get it. It’s just that the basic story here is old and worn about the battle of good and evil. Well, ok, we can make something interesting with that. However we move into two subplots about a cursed woman who is bringing a vortex down to earth. Why? Who the hell knows. More lame is the ‘climax’ for this vortex story line. If that is not the definition of an anti-climax I do not know what is. We also have the vampire-seduced kid plot line that seems to wind around and around before the ultimate non-climax. Along the way we meet mini-characters. I say ‘mini’ because we know little to nothing about them and then they are gone. I would’ve loved to see more of the blood drinking butcher, even a little deeper insight into Olga the owl would’ve been interesting. Other incidents that beg some logical questions, why did the power station explode so fast after what’s-his-name got the news about his mommy? How on earth did the power come back on after that huge explosion? Maybe Texas power sent Moscow some like they did NY last year? How about the singer and her skinny crony? What exactly was their role? What about the crazy plane that was pretty much crashing, barely feet from the ground, and then we don’t see it till the disaster is averted and it lands safely some 20 minutes later? It felt like Mr. Bekmambetov (Mr. B) was going too fast to bother with tiny details…
 I would’ve given this a better review even with the huge plot ADD had it been better filmed. Sure we get some very good CGI here and there. Unfortunately the insane pace of cutting from one shot to the next when there’s action going on will cut on anyone’s enjoyment and attention. I almost got a headache in that last lame duel between Anton (was that a neon light he was wielding????!!) and Zavulon. This movie also features one of the worst battle sequences using swords, starting from the very first one on the bridge. Probably because the average shot duration is 0.2 seconds and you have no idea whose doing who as blood is shed. For tutoring on how a bloody good sword battle is filmed Mr. B. needs to see Braveheart a few times. He even uses this lightning-speed editing during character shape-shifting for heaven’s sake! Who told him this is a good artistic tool?
 Does it have any saving grace? Not really, but two things do standout. One is the dynamic subtitles that shape shift and change depending on the mood, narrator, noise level and scene content. Pretty neat. The other is a single shot that was deliberate and well executed. It is a tracking shot that follows a screw as it comes loose from an airplane and falls, falls all the way down to its final destination in a woman’s coffee cup in a building under the aforementioned vortex. Even this shot does not serve any purpose but itself. It is cool, but nothing more than an extra.  Night Watch would’ve made a tighter and more enjoyable film in the hands of a better director and script writer. As it is, it’s a waste of time and money.

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