Day Watch is a definite gem for Russian cinema

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I can’t believe we had to wait almost a year and a half to watch this movie in the United States. The original release date was the first of January, 2006 (Belarus). It finally came out on the first of June, 2007 in the states (and only in two theaters in Los Angeles). It is very evident that the US movie market is not willing to share the “silver screen” with foreign countries when it comes to Action/Fantasy/Horror/Thriller/Sci-Fi movies. It is almost as if the US market is censoring foreign culture. It makes me mad. I guess it might have something to do with foreign countries making higher quality movies than most US production houses. I guess, the US has the upper hand on special effects, a higher budget, and more recognizable actors; but, most US directors are incapable of recognizing decent plots and bringing them to life (a.k.a. being artistic and good storytellers). There are of course exceptions such as the ever talented Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese, but these geniuses are a dying breed. Sure we have a couple foreign movies here and there that pop up in the US (Guillermo Del Toro’s, Pan’s Labyrinth), but they do not have the hype of a movie such as Pirates of the Caribbean 3. I thought Day Watch was better than Pirates 3, though I guess marketing speaks volumes.
So, I am sitting in the theater and the movie starts. The first thing you see is some crazy guy leading a whole army of horsemen across some frozen tundra to retrieve some piece of chalk. I’m sorry, but any movie that begins with a chalk hunt is ok in my book. We quickly realize that it is the “Chalk of Fate”. The director quickly transitions and the movie then takes a plunge into an underground Russian motif. From here, it’s just some crazy roller coaster ride. We are quickly introduced to our two main characters: Anton (Konstantin Khabensky)and Svetlana (Maria Portshina) who proceed to get into a whole heap of trouble chasing down a murderer between two parallel worlds (normal world and shadow world). These characters are by far my favorite, and amazing actors. Svetlana plays the sexy sidekick with unusual powers, and Anton bounces somewhere between urban bad ass, drunk and drag queen.
If I could make a suggestion to all people who would like to see this movie, I recommend seeing Dark Watch (Nochnoy Dozor) first. The prequel is plot thick, and a necessity to understand Day Watch. Sure, they go over some prologue at the beginning of Day Watch, though the plot is almost completely character driven. It’s hard to associate relationships between characters if you did not see the evolution in Night Watch. Even having watched Night Watch, I still found myself trying to sort out the plot as it unfolded. It seemed as if I was always a minute or two short of figuring things out. I guess that this is the nature of suspense films; though, the movie did not offer much breathing space when it came to figuring things out. I love movies that have English subtitles (beautifully animated subtitles at that); though, watching the movie, you are reading half the time, and you might miss one or two things here and there that are more visual cues. I knew the entire plot by the end of the movie, though I would probably like to re-watch the whole thing just so that I could enjoy more of the special effects.
Speaking of special effects, they were completely on par with Timur Bekmamentov’s (Director/Writer) beautiful world of vampires and shape shifters. Such a fantastic world requires visuals to blow your mind and you will not be disappointed. I really enjoyed the characters melting into glass, characters being hit by trucks, buildings being destroyed. The director works exceptionally well with slowing and quickening film speed to accentuate scenes and special effects. For example, it was really interesting watching the underneath of a sports car as it drives across the side of a sky scraper from the inside of one of the sky scraper’s rooms as some lady is cleaning the window.
Overall, this movie was great all round, completely entertaining, and a definite gem for Russian film making.

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Weak: 1 Star   Average: 2 Stars   Good: 3 Stars   Very Good: 4 Stars   Excellent: 5 Stars

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