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Konstantin Khabensky……….Anton Gorodetsky
Valeri Zolotukhin……….Kostya’s father
Zhanna Friske……….Alisa Donnikova
Ilya Lagutenko……….Vampire Andrei
Rimma Markova……….Darya Schultz
Mariya Mironova……….Yegor’s mother
With the expansion of the DVD market and shorter times from releases in theaters to releases on DVD/VHS over the last decade in the U.S big “event” movies have seemingly disappeared from the landscape. While plenty of films still draw over the $200 million mark domestically each year, the days of movies being events seem to be over as crossing $300 or even $400 million in the U.S alone is a much tougher proposition now than it was even five years ago. Russian audiences, however, turned out in droves for an “event movie” all their own: Night Watch.
Based off a book trilogy, Night Watch is the opening chapter of an epic fantasy/horror trilogy that has captivated one country and got a hacked-up version of the film released into American theatres for a brief and limited run in early 2006. With Day Watch set for release in 2007 and the final film Dusk Watch set to follow at an unknown time after that, Russia’s record-breaking film gets an American DVD release after being on Russian shelves for quite some time.
Packing in audiences and setting box office records, Night Watch and its sequel Day Watch focus on a rather unique world that hangs on an uneasy truce between good and evil. After a battle for the ages left both sides realizing that there would be no victory for either; only mutually assured destruction would be found as they were both evenly matched. The truce was struck and now the “others” that inhabit both sides of good and evil exist by monitoring each other. Good monitors the evil via their “night watch” as both sides await the emergence of a powerful “other” that would bring about the fulfillment of an apocalyptic prophecy. Focusing on Anton (Konstantin Khabensky), an “other” who discovers this world while dabbling in black magic to get back his ex-wife, the film revolves around his role in the fulfillment of said prophecy.
It’s definitely an interesting film whose visual effects hold up with any recent offering from Hollywood. While the CGI is uneven at times it’s on par with most of the stuff done in the U.S. There isn’t anything revolutionary nor is there anything that hasn’t been seen before but it is good stuff. It doesn’t detract from the story, which is the key element. Many times, both foreign and domestic, CGI tends to overwhelm and take over a film’s plot and Timur Bekmambetov is able to craft a great story with it. The plot and story have a steady pace, deftly balancing action sequences and story movements.
This isn’t an acting movie and none of the actors really stand out; in many ways Night Watch resembles Star Wars in that its more of a big sprawling epic that doesn’t require brilliant acting. Mediocre performances are more than sufficient to carry the weight of the film, as a big fantasy horror film like this is much more operatic than it is an actor-driven film. While great performances would be appreciated, mediocre ones are all that’s needed due to the film’s epic scope.
The film’s story and its epic scope are both fascinating on many levels; it’s the calling card of why the film was successful in Russia and did draw reasonably well in the short run it had. This is a big epic film with a big epic feel; while it is the first third of a trilogy, thus leaving the rest of the story (and the film) incomplete. What’s interesting is that both versions of the film (U.S and Russian) are included for release on this disc. While the Russian one is a more complete and cohesive story than the one shown in American theatres it still suffers from the acting blemishes and uneven CGI that plagued the American release. It is a vast improvement, making it go from a good film that could be great to a great one that borders on a masterpiece.
U.S Theatrical Release Score : 7.5 / 10
Russian Theatrical Release Score : 8.5 / 10
Both the Russian and U.S versions of the film are presented in a widescreen format with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, they both look great. It’s a clean and crisp transfer that comes through magnificently.
Presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 format in both English and Russian, the film does have a good audio component. The sound is clear and even, separated well.
Extended Ending comes complete with optional commentary to listen to in either English or Russian. It’s an interesting way to finish the film, as it takes things in a more complicated way than how the film ends originally, but leaves the setup for Day Watch the same.
Night Watch Trilogy is a feature that glances very briefly at the two Russian chapters of the trilogy as some quick glances behind the scenes from Day Watch are interposed with comments from Bekmambetov on a very cursory level.
Trailers for Broken Saints, The Hills Have Eyes and Thief are included.
Inside Look at The Omen (2006) is just the initial teaser trailer for the film.
Commentary by Timur Bekmambetov is subtitled in English, Spanish and French for those not fluent in Russian.
Commentary by Novelist Sergei Lukianenko is also subtitled in English, Spanish and French for those not fluent in Russian.
Score : 4.5 / 10