Nochnoy Dozor [Night Watch] (2004)

(In theaters, March 2006) Hurrah for Russia! Just as Hollywood urban fantasy is crumbling under its own lack of interest, here comes a dark and grimy kerosene-fuelled tale of good versus evil. Oh, it’s derivative all right, with enough common fantasy elements in one film to make anyone wonder how that particular internal mythology is going to hold together. It doesn’t, not really: but Night Watch is so much fun that it doesn’t really matter. Part of the appeal, despite such well-worn tropes as vampirism and Big Evil, is to be found in the contemporary Moscow setting: grimy, unpleasant and naturally different, it’s almost naturally suited to urban fantasy. The other big strength of the film is in its pedal-to-the-metal style, with overactive cuts, loud rock music and idea-a-minute visual inventiveness. Even the excellent English subtitles of the American version get in the act, with font changes, interaction with on-screen material and other occasional flourishes. After a long revving-up period, Night Watch attains its own cruise speed, but watch out: It’s setting itself up as the first volume in a trilogy rather than a complete volume. I’m still not sure that it all holds together, but I like it nonetheless. I want to see the rest of the story; I want to see more of Olga; I want to see more of that crazy everything-included mythology. Frankly, I just want to see the next two segments of the trilogy. Volume Two (Day Watch) is already screening in Russia; Volume Three (Dawn Watch) is planned for next year: Bring’em over, Fox Searchlight, and I’ll be there on opening day.

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