Nochnoi Dozor (2004)
AKA: Night Watch AKA: Nochnoy dozor

(Premiere Date: June 27, 2004 [Moscow Film Festival])
(Release Date: July 8, 2004 [Russia])
(USA Release Date: February 27, 2006)

Four OTHER Stars!Four OTHER Stars!Four OTHER Stars!Four OTHER Stars!

The Hoosegow in old Moscow is in a Supernatural Row!

J.C. Mašek III... 

Cold Gold Horror!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

Ah, yes, the films of Mother Russia. So many favorites. Why I personally can name... uh... two? Counting this one? Oh, they're there, but how often do we Yanks get to see them? This one kicks ass! It's called Night Watch, and it's one hell of a killer action thriller, packed with the supernatural and the horrific, leading up to a benchmark in cohesive storytelling. Along the way there are the occasional moments that seem obscure and incongruous, however the only major problem with Night Watch is its supernatural ability to attract the most disgusting of nerds. I found a prime spot in the theatre, before a collective seven tons (there were only nine of them) of geek showed up and forced their way up the stadium stairs to brush past me with Peterbilt sized thighs. Each of them then proceeded to eat one of each item on the menu (except the bottled water), smacked their lips, jiggled their jowls, consumed shovels full of Starburst-laced popcorn, read the Subtitles aloud, played air drums when the score got going, nodded their Godzilla-like heads to the music, hyperventilated (as this is the most exercise they've had in months), and eventually (and I'm not joking) got stuck between the armrests as they attempted to rise during the credits. If you were at the AMC 30 At The Block 7:50 PM showing of Night Watch on March 11, 2006, I'd like to thank you. I thought I was fat. I thought I was geeky. Now I realize... with you dorks around I look like a Calvin Kline Model. I doubt any of you are reading this though, as you probably all had massive coronaries at the KFC on the way home. MOO!
I can see the Tigers Mirrored in your Eyes!


Regardless, Night Watch Rocks! As the film begins we are introduced to "The Others" (apparently not localized to just the Lost island). These "Others" are segregated into the "Dark Others" (comprised primarily by Vampires) and the "Light Others" (comprised by various Shape Shifters). When one particularly vicious medieval battle proves that neither side can ever truly win (only decimate each other), the leaders of each group call a lasting truce, which goes on for centuries. From this point on no newly-minted "Other" can never be forcibly coerced to one side or the other. Rather they much choose their path into "The Gloom". The Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor) is formed of Light Others to police the dark, while the Day Watch (Dnevnoi Dozor) is formed to police their lighter brethren.

However, this truce is threatened in the modern era, starting with the induction of Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabensky) into the light side back in 1992. When he's convinced to allow a witchy woman to abort his estranged wife's unborn child (whom he is promised was fathered by another man), the Nochnoi Dozor interfere. Twelve years later he's one of their most trusted operatives, on the hunt for misbehaving Vamps, and believe you me, he finds them. And believe you me, it almost kills him this time.

Soon the Dnevnoi Dozor is investigating, the Nochnoi Dozor is on the defensive, and Anton is swept into turmoil. He's suddenly at odds with his vampire neighbors (Aleksei Chadov, and Valeri Zolotukhin), and is being scrutinized by his new partner, an Owl Shape Shifting woman named Olga (the briefly nude Galina Tyunina) to go with his Bear shape shifting friend Ilya (Aleksandr Samojlenko) and his Tiger Cub shape shifting friend Lena (Anna Slyusaryova). However, amid all of this Anton is most adamant about tracking down the twelve-year old boy who was to be the vampires' prey, Yegor (Dmitri Martynov), and the mysterious cursed woman around whom a dark vortex has formed.

I could mention Geser (Vladimir Menshov) and Zavulon (Viktor Verzhbitsky), respectively the light and dark leaders at the ends of this twisted tug-o-war rope, but I think this is confusing enough as it is. Night Watch is that, at least part of the time, and it's clear that the inspired screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis and Timur Bekmambetov (who also directed) doesn't bridge quite every point in the source novel by Sergei Lukyanenko. However, these points are the exception, not the rule, and one has to expect a gap or two in a plot this rich and varied. The film is exciting and stimulating (unless you see it with hyperactive nerds) and leads to a fitting summit as all the dominoes fall not to a conclusion, but a new beginning, setting up the sequel Day Watch and the third in the trilogy (tentatively known as Dusk Watch).

Night Watch broke every box office record in Russia in its initial run, and had a budget to match. Therefore, the special effects (while possibly not blowing all Hollywood CGI off the map) are pretty damned good. This feels like a very earthy, textured The Matrix, coupled with all the things that the Underworld movies missed. The acting, directing and use of music all combine to make this a very fine film. Another thing that separates Night Watch from most films is its use of subtitles as part of the action. These are no mere white on white dialogue strings. The subtitles here appear in various parts of the screen and interact with the movement in the frame, occasionally animating themselves into oblivion or wiping away and coming back. For example, as Yegor is summoned by calling vampires, the subtitle of "Come to Me" appears on the screen, then pops away into a wisp of red mist. This isn't a cheap gimmick as it never attempts to (nor succeeds in) distracting from the main story. This is simply a great way of bringing the subtitles into life along side the dialogue. Don't worry, this isn't an annoying cartoon thing, this is legitimate and sparingly used, only to great affect.

Night Watch is a keeper and a great set up for the next two films. However, the apex is a fitting finale for those who like their trilogies self-contained. Considering some of the disconnections and gaps, coupled with one of the coolest action/ horror films I've ever seen, Night Watch gets Four Stars out of Five! I may learn to speak Russian. One thing is for sure, I'll never walk into a dark room, with flies all around and take it for granted either. Also, I'll never enter a theatre with big fat nerds in shorts again. Comic Book Guy is cooler, and in better shape. See you in the next shape-shifting reel. As long as it doesn't shift into a Pear!

I could use a Shower...
I've written my last several reviews while in the form of a Night Bird!
Click here to read them.

Nochnoi Dozor (2004) Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is solely responsible for the content of this site and the fact that he really thought the title of this flick was Knightley Watch, and was a Keira Vehicle!
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