×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Night Watch

Horror-cum-cop drama "Night Watch" has taken a record-breaking domestic $15 million cume on home turf since its July 8 bow. Russian-made pic displays pro technique and visual imagination on a par with Hollywood frighteners, but with a distinctive Slavic accent. Fox Searchlight-acquired pic will sink fangs into U.S. market this fall.

With:
Anton Gorodensky - Konstantin Khabensky Gesser - Vladimir Menshov Zavulon - Viktor Verzhbitsky Svetlana - Maria Poroshina Olga - Galina Tyunina Ignat - Gosha Kytsenko Kostya - Alexsei Chadov Alisa - Zhanna Friske Andrei - Ilya Larutenko Darya, Witch - Rimma Markova Irina - Maria Mironova Egor - Dima Martinov Semyon - Alexei Maklakov Female Vampire - Anna Dubrovskaya

The Russians are coming — hungry for blood! Gore-soaked horror-cum-cop drama “Night Watch” has taken a record-breaking domestic $15 million cume (more than “The Lord of the Rings”) on home turf since its July 8 bow. Russian-made pic displays pro technique and visual imagination on a par with, if not better than, Hollywood frighteners, but with a distinctive Slavic accent. Commercials director Timur Bekmambetov’s feature debut tells of Blade-like bloodsucker (Konstantin Khabensky) in a struggle between good and evil. Fox Searchlight-acquired pic, first of a projected trilogy, will sink fangs into U.S. market this fall. Subtitle-friendly horror fans might boost ticket sales through strong word of mouth.

Co-adapted by Bekmambetov and Sergei Lukyanenko from the latter’s own novel, story’s central conceit rests on Manichean notion that good and evil are equally powerful.

Opening prologue set in 1342 A.D. finds the Warriors of Light, led by Gesser (Vladimir Menshov), and the Warriors of Darkness, fronted by Zavulon (Viktor Verzhbitsky), forging a truce. Henceforth, “Others” — humans with supernatural powers from each side — will patrol the opposite side to ensure the balance of power is maintained. However, it’s prophesized that someday a powerful Other will come along who will be tempted by one side — maybe the light, maybe the dark — and who will throw the whole 1,000-year plan out of whack, wreaking havoc.

Flashforward to Moscow, 1992, where the Night Watch of the title — whose members belong to the light group — issues licenses to dark Others so they can patrol on the light side. However, the Night Watch will arrest or even kill them if they get out of line.

Darkness’s forces have a Day Watch crew as well.

Young Anton Gorodensky (played by Slav superstar Konstantin Khabensky) discovers he is an Other when he’s caught up in Night Watch’s sting on a witch.

Twelve years later, Anton is now a vampire on the side of Light and works for Night Watch. En route to rescue pubescent boy Egor (Dima Martinov) from the clutches of dark vampires, Anton spots mousy nurse Svetlana (Maria Poroshina) on the subway and recognizes her as a “funnel” creator, i.e. a walking bad-luck transmitter, who will be the trigger catastrophes in the coming days.

And this is just the first reel. Phantasmagoric, effects-heavy finale sees history repeating itself with a rooftop battle by digital cast of hundreds. A “Star Wars”-style revelation about Egor’s background and flashback-underscored twist get the table ready for the next franchise’s installment, “Day Watch,” due soon for local release.

Super abundance of allusions and devices suggest Bekmambetov and company are well versed in classic horror and sci-fi conventions from abroad, from “Frankenstein” and “The Matrix,” to le cinema de Jean-Pierre Jeunet (more “Delicatessen”-era than “Amelie”) and David Fincher. That certainly won’t hurt its appeal abroad.

Nevertheless, film is endowed with sharp local flavor, felt in its use of Muscovite landmarks and, more importantly, the specifically Russian types who populate the wide cast of characters.

Most of the Dark Others all look like Mafiosos or hooligans, with a smattering of nouveau-riche New Russians. On the other hand, the Night Watch and their friends look like downtrodden working stiffs in out-of-date duds, who have alcohol problems (these vampires drink both vodka and blood).

This may explain pic’s broad demographic appeal back home, while its good-vs.-evil plotline offers compelling new mythology for a nation still coping with the disappearance of enforced Communist ideology. The presence of august older thesps from the Soviet era (Menshov, Markova) combined with new stars like Khabensky and Chadov and TV soap actors no doubt has helped its crossover appeal.

Budgeted at a rumored $4 million, a lot for a Russian movie, pic makes every kopek count with lavish effects that send the CG “camera” whizzing from huge altitudes and distances to near-microscopic levels. One spectacular, smoothly executed shot, for example, follows an airborne rivet from flying plane down through the night air, down a ventilator shaft and into a cup of coffee. Make-up effects are similarly top-flight and effectively gruesome, climaxing with a spine being ripped out and used as a sword.

Given plotline centers round struggle between light and dark forces, camerawork and lighting shine particularly in the tech department, growing ever more mannered and murky as pic works toward final showdown in which Anton uses a lit fluorescent tube as a homemade light saber.

For the record, original title “Nochnoy Dozor” can mean either “Night Watch” or “Night Patrol,” and pic has been called both already in English-lingo publications. Fox Searchlight will distribute the original Russian version in the U.S., and an English remake will be done by 20th Century Fox.

Night Watch

Russia

Production: A Fox Searchlight release (in U.S.) of a Gemini Film Intl. presentation of a First Channel, Tabbak, Baselevs production. (International sales: Gemini, Moscow.) Produced by Anatoly Maximov, Konstantin Ernst. Executive producers, Alexsei Kublistki, Varvara Avdyushko. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov. Screenplay, Sergei Lukyanenko, Bekmambetov, based on the novel by Lukyanenko.

Crew: Camera (color), Sergei Trofimov; editor, Dmitri Kiselev; music, Yuri Potyeyenko, Valera Viktorov, Mukstar Mirzakeev; production designer, Vara Yavdyushko; costume designer, Ekaterina Diminskaya; make-up, Irina Morozova, Natalya Bogdanova, Galina Ustimenko; sound (Dolby Digital), Sergei Karpenko; sound director, Alexander Abramov; visual effects designer, Pavel Perepelkin; casting, Tamara Odinstova. Reviewed on videodisc, London, Aug. 24, 2004. Running time: 115 MIN.

With: Anton Gorodensky - Konstantin Khabensky Gesser - Vladimir Menshov Zavulon - Viktor Verzhbitsky Svetlana - Maria Poroshina Olga - Galina Tyunina Ignat - Gosha Kytsenko Kostya - Alexsei Chadov Alisa - Zhanna Friske Andrei - Ilya Larutenko Darya, Witch - Rimma Markova Irina - Maria Mironova Egor - Dima Martinov Semyon - Alexei Maklakov Female Vampire - Anna Dubrovskaya

More Film

  • Mid 90s

    Jonah Hill's 'mid90s,' Pauline Kael Documentary to Screen in Berlin's Panorama Section

    Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, “mid90s,” about a 13-year-old skateboarder’s coming of age, and a documentary on influential film critic Pauline Kael are among the works that will screen in the Panorama section of the upcoming Berlin Film Festival. Films starring Tilda Swinton and Jamie Bell and titles from countries including Israel, Brazil and Japan were [...]

  • 'Your Name' Director Makoto Shinkai Readies

    ‘Your Name' Director Makoto Shinkai Readies 'Weathering'

    Three years after the animation “Your Name” began its long triumphant reign over the Japanese and international box office, its director Makoto Shinkai has announced his next animated feature. Titled “Weathering With You,” the film will arrive in theaters in Japan on July 19 of next year, with Toho distributing. Set in a world where [...]

  • Berlin: The Match Factory Boards New

    Berlin: The Match Factory Boards Competition Titles From Fatih Akin, Emin Alper (EXCLUSIVE)

    German indie powerhouse The Match Factory will handle world sales on two Berlin Film Festival competition titles: German director Fatih Akin’s serial-killer chiller “The Golden Glove” and Turkish director Emin Alper’s family drama “A Tale of Three Sisters.”  Akin, a Hamburg native whose “Head-On” won the Golden Bear in 2004, is returning to the Berlinale [...]

  • First-Look Image Revealed for ‘Monday,’ Starring

    First-Look Image Revealed for ‘Monday,’ Starring ‘Captain America’s’ Sebastian Stan

    The first-look image from Greek director Argyris Papadimitropoulos’ “Monday,” starring Sebastian Stan – best known for “I, Tonya” and the “Captain America” movies – and “Colette’s” Denise Gough, has been released. Protagonist Pictures will launch international sales on the pic in Berlin. “Monday” follows the story of Mickey (Stan) and Chloe (Gough), two Americans in [...]

  • The Wedding

    Film Review: 'The Wedding'

    Two considerations need to exist side by side when discussing “The Wedding,” the debut feature of Egyptian-American multihyphenate Sam Abbas. One involves the film itself, a dull slice of Lower Manhattan mumblecore about a heterosexual New York couple fitfully planning their wedding until she discovers his gay dalliance. The other, getting the lion’s share of [...]

  • The Best Gifts For Film Buffs

    Holiday Gift Guide: The Best Gifts For Film Buffs

    Whether you know a film buff who needs to upgrade their collection, or you just want to upgrade your movie nights at home, here are eight gifts that will cast your favorite flicks in a whole new light. 1. Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema: The Criterion Collection Thirty-nine films from the legendary Swedish filmmaker are collected in [...]

  • Ansel Elgort The Great High School

    Film News Roundup: Ansel Elgort to Star in 'The Great High School Imposter'

    In today’s film news roundup, Ansel Elgort is going to high school, “Rockaway” gets a release, and “Suspiria” producer Bradley Fischer is honored. CASTING Ansel Elgort has come aboard to star in the drama “The Great High School Imposter” for Participant Media and Condé Nast Entertainment. More Reviews Film Review: 'The Wedding' Film Review: 'Malila: [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content