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Russia 2006
Directed by
Timur Bekmambetov
132 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
3.5 stars

Day Watch

Synopsis: Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) continues to patrol the streets as a member of the Night Watch. The forces of Dark are searching for the Chalk of Fate, which has the power to rewrite history. Assigned a new partner, Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina), Anton must try to find the Chalk of Fate to avoid plunging the world into darkness

What would you change if you could rewrite history? It’s an interesting idea to play with. How many mistakes would you unmake and how many would you leave untouched? These ideas don’t get played with a lot in Day Watch, but there’s a nice moment towards the end which highlights the idea rather charmingly. That said, this is no Tarkovsky but the sequel to Night Watch, a visually hyperdriven but somewhat disappointing action/sci-fi/horror film that reset expectations of what Russian cinema could be. So we’re not dealing with a deep meditation on life and the consequence of choice but rather the familiar action blockbuster subject of the eternal battle between good and evil.

While traditionally sequels are less inspired than their predecessors, Bekmambetov seems to have learned from the mistakes of Night Watch. To begin with, this has a story that isn’t thrown out the window in the middle of the second act and whilst the visual pyrotechnics are more toned down the sense of fun is massively ramped up. Our hero, Anton, is still somewhere between hapless and awesomely cool and now he’s got a romantic interest with the addition of his protégé, Svetlana. The fun gets somewhat perverse when Anton is framed for murder and the Day Watch (forces of Dark) come after him and he is forced to swap bodies with Olga (Galina Tyunina), his partner from the first film. This leads to one of the most hysterically wrong sequences of the film as Olga/Anton hides out with Svetlana, the scene culminating in a romantic dream sequence that will have you on the floor laughing. 

But that’s all just embroidery on the core of the story, the relationship between Anton and his estranged son, Yegor. Yegor joined the Dark when he learned that Anton nearly killed him in the womb when he asked a witch to curse his ex-girlfriend. Now the strongest Dark there is, Anton still desperately seeks reconciliation with his son. But what comes instead is a strange love triangle between Anton, Yegor and Svetlana that sets in course what could become the Apocalypse. Svetlana, it seems, is Yegor’s equivalent for the Light. So what happens when two massively powerful beings fight for the affections of our poor hero? Blockbuster special effects, obviously, which are both well-delivered and lots of fun.

So what would you do if you had a piece of chalk that could erase your mistakes? It’s a good question, and while this is largely a silly, oftentimes nonsensical, blockbuster, that question and Anton’s answer, along with his strong and tortured human presence, grounds the film into something quite solid and in the end brings a happy symmetry to the two films although no doubt there are plans to spin things into a third instalment.




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