Day Watch (film, 2008)

A review of the DVD of the extended edition of the Russian dark fantasy epic. From Death Ray 10.


2006/139 mins/15

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Writers: Timur Bekmambetov, Sergei Lukyanenko and Vladimir Vasiliev (novel) Alexander Talal (scenario)

Starring: Konstantin Khabensky, Mariya Poroshina, Vladimir Menshov, Galina Tyunina

 A sequel that is not really a follow-up, but a conclusion to the film Night Watch.

The highest grossing Russian film to date, Day Watch is perhaps best looked upon not as a separate film but as the second half of Night Watch. Watch Night Watch again alongside this film and you will find yourself exclaiming “Aha! That’s what it is all about!” Which is good, as it improves the first no end.

Day Watch is set in a world (of a kind rapidly becoming a cliché) where supernatural beings, here known as “Others”, coexist in secret with humanity. The film begins in epic style with historical hothead Timur attacking a fortress in Central Asia several hundred years ago wherein is hidden the mysterious Chalk of Fate (yes, it sounds silly, but it works as a spooky McGuffin). This unusual magical artefact gives whoever possesses it the ability to rewrite their life, and the film focusses on the desire of the Dark Ones to use it to break their ancient treaty with the Light Ones and take over the world, while disillusioned hero Anton attempts to get hold of it to use it to break the chain of events set in motion at the beginning of the first film (if you can remember, he pays a witch to kill his unborn son, and it doesn’t work).

The battle for the chalk is impressive, with horses magically bursting through walls, and the chalk’s guardians shape-shifting from ravens in mid flight to drop on the heads of astonished Mongols. The film keeps up the natty visuals until the breathtaking climax, where Anton’s wayward son takes out most of Moscow with a magic yo-yo, though as in the first film, budgetary constraints mean we’re not treated to some of the more ostentatious powers of the book’s Others.

This extended edition – which is actually the original Russian cut of the film – is a little overlong, with one too many crazy moments where Anton barrels about pissed to bonkers music. So be warned, to watch both Day Watch and Night Watch in one sitting may well break you. The concept also carries the same problems that Underworld, Harry Potter et al do, like, if there were all these super-powered horror types knocking about we’d notice – they live in a frustratingly disconnected never-never land, a magic empire that is too big to stay hidden. But if you buy in to this kind of thing, it comes with the territory.

But it’s good to see something not American examining these ideas, and the Moscow locations add a dash of the exotic to what is already eminently watchable dark fantasy tosh.


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