STARRING: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Viktor Verzhbitsky, Mariya Poroshina, Galina Tyunina, Gosha Kytsenko

2006, 114 Minutes, Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov

Description: Among normal humans live the "Others" possessing various supernatural powers. They are divided up into the forces of light and the forces of the dark, who signed a truce several centuries ago to end a devastating battle. Ever since, the forces of light govern the day while the night belongs to their dark opponents. In modern day, the dark Others actually roam the night as vampires while a "Night Watch" of light forces, among them Anton, try to control them and limit their outrage.

Night Watch is the first part of a fantasy/horror trilogy based on a series of Russian novels Sergei Lukyanenko, hence the unsatisfying ending. But it’s good enough to make you want more and more is on its way: the sequel is currently playing in packed Muscovite theatres.

Bit of a phenomenon, Night Watch did extremely good box office in its native Russia and was quickly picked up for U.S. and international distribution by Fox Searchlight, Fox’s “indie” distributor. Not exactly what you’d expect of a “foreign” Russian film, Night Watch may have subtitles, but it is a violent, action-packed fantasy flick about “battle between Light and Darkness”, that old Hollywood plot standby.

Yup, the plot isn’t particularly original. It’s about immortal “Others” who look human but actually possess supernatural powers such as shape shifting, magic or vampirism battling it out in an age-old epic struggle. Think Highlander with elements thrown in from other movies such as Blade, Underworld and so forth. But the movie is such a case of delirious style over substance with its energetic pace, great special effects done on a small budget, professional acting and good production values, that it can at any time compete with much more expensive Hollywood blockbusters.

It however has a certain non-Hollywood flavor to it that elevates it above similar recent American efforts. (Maybe it’s those gloomy Moscow settings.) It is easy however to understand the movie’s popularity in its own native country: Night Watch is something to be proud of. Sure, often some countries with smaller film industries tend to over-fixate on certain undeserving home-brewed movies out of a misguided sense of patriotism, but Night Watch isn’t one of those movies. Instead it’s an enjoyable albeit bloody action flick that’ll appeal to genre fans.

The Russians should be proud. Here is a kick-ass movie that shows that Hollywood isn’t the only ones who can do Hollywood, and can beat the Americans at their own game.

Easily recommended, and so is its 2007 sequel Day Watch which should preferably be watched together as a double bill. . .



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