Night Watch

Movies Reviews
Night Watch

Thrilling Russian fantasy takes on Hollywood and wins

Night Watch, a huge hit in its native Russia, is a preposterous celluloid Rorschach blot, the backstory and main narratives of which are too feverishly convoluted to summarize. But it works. As an epic about Good and Evil warriors scrapping on the streets of modern Moscow, the film is blissfully free of faux history lessons from the Obi-Wan and Elrond School of Film Exposition. The audience is tossed into a 1,000-year conflict involving witches, curses, vampires, shapeshifters and hypersonic public-utility vehicles and told to sink or swim. Thus, Night Watch feels like Harry Potter’s first week at Hogwarts—crammed with the giddy culture shock of constant discovery.

Night Watch sells its reality as few movies about “hidden societies in conflict” can (Blade, Hellboy and Underworld come to mind). Multiple story elements—from a medieval battle equal parts Alexander Nevsky and Highlander to the banality of a lonely woman buying coffee—are threaded into a compellingly tangible-yet-mythic fantasy world with a lot of heart. The protagonists are an oddly lovable lot. Konstantin Khabensky as the pleasingly schlub-like “hero” Anton is a standout, as is Galina Tyunina as Olga, a sorceress who comes across as Goth queen Diamanda Galas after having discovered the Softer Side of Sears.

The ending opens the way for a sequel (Night Watch is first in a projected trilogy), yet doesn’t feel like a cheat; not since Darth told Luke he was his daddy has a fantasy been so ripe for another chapter.

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