A long "Day's" journey into night, this is the second in a trilogy of Russian horror fantasies based on co-screenwriter Sergei Lukyanenko's best-selling novels.

Day Watch (Dnevnoi Dozor)

on June 01, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson
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The second in a trilogy of Russian horror fantasies based on co-screenwriter Sergei Lukyanenko's best-selling novels, Day Watch continues the saga centering on an uneasy 1,000-year truce between the forces of Light and Dark. The sequel has already exceeded the worldwide gross of its predecessor, Night Watch , with more than $30 million. The first, however, despite possessing the scope of The Lord of the Rings and style of The Matrix , failed to catch on in America in a significant way. The marketers at Fox Searchlight have their work cut out for them if they want domestic audiences to embrace this latest landmark of Russian cinema, as familiarity with the material going in is a virtual requirement for appreciation of it.

A prelude set in ancient Northern Iran provides the back story of the central artifact, the Chalk of Fate, which appears to grant the wishes of those who write with it. A massive, fantasy-fueled siege on a labyrinthian monastery to seize the Chalk sets the level of spectacle one can anticipate in the rest of the film, set in contemporary Moscow, in which each side has acquired a powerful Great Other. Unfortunately for Anton (Konstantin Khabensky), the protagonist at the center of the films, one is his adolescent son, the other his love interest. If the Great Others should ever meet, war would ensue. Meanwhile, Anton has also been framed for murder, so he embarks on a quest to find the Chalk of Fate to set things right.

Like Night Watch before it, writer/director Timur Bekmambetov's Day Watch is playfully rendered. This is a cinematic world in which a soccer star in a snapshot wipes off the sloppy wet kiss of an admirer and English subtitles are worked into the picture as if they are a part of the mise-en-scene. Crows transform into men mid-flight. Mazdas drive on the sides of buildings. Men and women switch bodies to hilarious effect, as Anton tries to stash his flask and cigarettes on his new svelte female form.

And that's to say nothing of the camerawork: One shot zooms up the center of a building as it cracks in two; a pivotal scene takes place entirely in the span of a camera flash. Filmmaking, dialogue and even the score—at times beautifully tragic, at others goofy muzak—are employed to achieve quick shifts in tone from dramatic noir to absurd humor, from horror to romance.

Unfortunately, even if a neophyte was to grasp the under-explained particulars of the movie's mythology such as the Gloom—parallel planes signaled by mosquitoes into which Others can disappear—the climactic act demands that the viewer be familiar with Day 's predecessor Night Watch . The two films (and eventually the third, Dusk Watch ) are perhaps best viewed in tandem, a daunting task given that, however innovative and arresting the filmmaking, interest in this chapter begins to wane at the 105-minute mark.
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Cast: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Valery Zolotukhin, Maria Poroshina, Galina Tunina, Victor Verzhbitsky and Dima Martynov
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Screenwriters: Sergei Lukyanenko, Timur Bekmambetov and Alexander Talal
Producers: Anatoly Maximov and Konstantin Ernst
Genre: Horror fantasy
Rating: R for violence
Running time: 131 min.
Release date: June 1, 2007
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