Bursting with incident and FX, “Day Watch” will delight fans of its predecessor, “Night Watch,” but further annoy those antipathetic to the Russkie-made supernatural franchise. Although more flashily assembled, pic’s relentless onslaught charms less over a running time almost 25 minutes longer. Reuniting original cast and key crew, “Day” follows “Night” where the latter left off, making no concessions to newcomers, to tell how its paranormal patrolman-hero gets his hands on a piece of chalk that literally rewrites history. “Day” dawned in January with a record-breaking $35 million B.O. locally, but looks to yield Fox slightly less than “Night” internationally.
Structure follows its predecessor’s virtually beat for beat, starting with an ancient-history lesson, followed by multiple storylines set in contempo Moscow that ultimately converge, enabling a climactic, blood-soaked sword-and-armor battle. In fact, “Day” resolves both pics’ storylines so tightly, it’s hard to imagine where the next installment, “Dusk Watch,” in development, can go.
Opening this time is the story of how 14th-century Mongol conqueror Tamerlan acquires the Chalk of Destiny (the pic’s Russian handle), which allows its user to make what is written come true.
Flash-forward to the present, and paranormally gifted Anton Gorodensky (Konstantin Khabensky) is training Svetlana (Maria Poroshina), the latest recruit to Night Watch, a quasi-police organization. The two, who secretly have the hots for each other, met in “Night Watch”; since then, she’s had a blonde makeover. Anton is a Light Other, and Night Watch is dedicated to regulating the activities of Dark Others.
Answering a call about an attack on a grandmother, Svetlana discovers the perpetrator is Egor (Dima Martinov), Anton’s 12-year-old son, who joined the Dark forces in “Night Watch.” Egor’s amusing method of extracting the life force from victims involves use of a child’s juice box.
Anton later destroys evidence to protect Egor’s identity lest the latter be punished for his infraction. This reps the first intimation that the theme in this pic will be the porous boundary between good and evil. Allegory hunters may see in this fantastical world as a mirror of post-Communist Russia, with yesterday’s oppressed evolving into today’s oppressors.
Rest of the pic proceeds to crosscut between: Anton, who gets in trouble and must briefly swap bodies with colleague Olga (Galina Tyunina); Egor and his Dark Mentor, Zavulon (Viktor Verzhbitsky); and a bewildering subplot involving young vampire Kostya (Aleksei Chadov) and his butcher father (Valery Zolotukhin). Beefed-up presence of the last two explains why such major thesps were needed for fleeting roles in the previous pic. (Following this logic, Russian topliner Gosha Kutsenko, who only wanders through both films briefly, will finally get something major to do in the third leg.)
Returning helmer Timur Bekmambetov operates according to the philosophy that more is better, be it in terms of design, camerawork, faster editing, or broader perfs. At times, the effect is dizzying, as the camera soars upward through ceilings one time too many, or the editing is as intoxicated as the guests during the final party sequence. Latter, especially, goes on a little too long — like all Russian parties.
Still, there’s something admirable about pic’s the refusal to make itself more friendly to Western auds, despite the franchise’s acquisition by Fox. Pic feels resolutely by and for Russians, right down to the score by Yuri Potyeyenko, which alternates atrocious heavy-metal blasts with accordion noodlings.