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Day Watch (Dnevnoy dozor)

Prepare for a bloody showdown in director Timur Bekmambetov's overly complicated but nevertheless enthralling epic sequel to the Russian blockbuster Night Watch. But where does the proposed trilogy go from here?


The opening recap won't be of much help to anyone who has not seen Night Watch, Bekmambetov's Matrix-indebted saga of ancient foes whose uneasy truce in modern-day Moscow is always one skirmish away from being broken. So first watch Night Watch, or you might wonder why boozy seer Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabensky) desperately wants to mend fences with his estranged young son, Yegor (Dima Martynov). Day Watch picks up where Night Watch left off, with tensions on the rise between the two fractions of supernatural beings, the Light Others and the bloodsucking Dark Others. Only Yegor—under the wing of warmongering Dark Other leader Zavulon (Viktor Verzhbitsky)—is now truly a bad seed. That certainly puts daddy dearest in a bad spot. Unfortunately, Anton's decision to cover up a crime committed by Yegor opens the door for Zavulon to frame him for the murder of a Dark Other. Worse, Zavulon is counting down the days until Yegor's birthday, when the boy's powers will be strong enough to allow the Dark Others to finally vanquish their long-time enemy. And let's not forget both sides want to get their hands on the Chalk of Fate, which lets the user rectify his past mistakes. Unfortunately, the introduction of this plain-looking writing utensil leaves you with the unpleasant feeling history will be rewritten to negate the events chronicled in both films. Such a plot device seems lazy and too convenient, especially for a franchise that's just as convoluted and mythology driven as The Matrix trilogy.


Even though Anton's finally found his place among the Light Others, the charmingly unkempt Konstantin Khabensky wisely retains the grumpy disposition, hangdog expression and fatalistic wit that made his late-to-the-game psychic such an reluctant hero in Night Watch. But he also digs deeper emotionally to disclose the devastating sadness and regret that Anton harbors toward his son and the terrible fate he's consigned him to out of a long-ago act of selfishness. In an attempt to prevent the Dark Others from capturing him, Anton is forced to swap bodies with his former partner, the shape-shifting Olga (Galina Tyunina). With her shoulders slouched, and a cigarette dangling from the side of her mouth, Tyunina is the unexpected source of much of Day Watch's humor as she hilariously captures Anton's disheveled demeanor without a hint of over exaggeration. And, while posing as Olga, Anton inadvertently reveals his love for Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina). With the curse that hovered over Svetlana lifted in Night Watch, Proshina now exudes a confidence and cheerfulness that grows stronger as her powers as a Great Light Other develop. As her Dark Other counterpart Yegor, Dima Martynov comes across as more of a petulant teenage pissed off with his father than the harbinger of death and destruction. That would be OK if Yegor had any redeeming qualities that made him worth saving, but it's clear he's happy being a naughty boy. Unfortunately, like Tomas Wooller in last year's superfluous Omen remake, Martynov sadly gives evil a bad name.


Fulfilling the promise of a trilogy may prove problematic for director Timur Bekmambetov. He wraps up the near-apocalyptic proceedings in such a logical—though unsatisfying—fashion that would make a third installment unnecessary. Then again, he could employ the Chalk of Fate to undo such a mistake. Even if he telegraphs his ending in the opening scene, Bekmambetov still manages to concoct a visually stunning and symbolically rich sequel that is vastly superior to Night Watch. Everything's executed on a giddily grander scale, whether it's the centuries-spanning confrontations between the bitter rivals, the special effects that are more imaginative than anything offered in most U.S. blockbusters, or the relationships that develop between all concerned. And the climatic confrontation finds Bekmambetov gleefully going all Roland Emmerich on Moscow. The humor is broader, but on occasion it's disruptive. Hopping on an Iraq-bound plane is nothing more than an excuse for Anton and Olga to engage in some amusing banter. At 140 minutes, the excising of such extraneous scenes would make Day Watch easier to follow. But Bekmambetov's more interested in fooling around with the subtitles—twisting them into all sorts of shapes, such as blood splatter—than he is in making the film more coherent. Too bad he doesn't pay as much attention to the bigger picture as he does to the little details. After all that has gone before, it's hard not to walk away wondering why Bekmambetov drew us into a conflict between centuries-old enemies, only to pull the wool over our eyes.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 stars.