Heavily influenced by such American directors as James Cameron, the Wachowski brothers and Quentin Tarantino, director Timur Bekmambetov, a commercial and music-video helmer who's filmed spots for Coke, Pepsi, Apple and Microsoft, incorporates an innovative vision with familiar elements from contemporary action cinema -- the massive gothic battle scenes of "The Lord of the Rings," the trenchcoat, shades and bullet-time photography of "The Matrix," the tricked-out cars of "The Fast and the Furious," an apocalyptic vortex a la "Ghostbusters." Stylistic visuals, kinetic editing and a subterranean sound mix combine to create a caffeinated yet claustrophobic mood. Even the English subtitles, rendered onscreen as though physically part of the scene, contribute to the film's overall atmosphere.
There are times, however, that Bekmambetov's style overwhelms the picture, tipping the plot towards melodrama, and the script in parts lags as though coming down from a high. Further, two parallel storylines fail to intersect in a meaningful way. One, about a curse on a mythic Virgin that augurs a pivotal battle, fails to develop the necessary anticipation for the climax to pay off in an exciting way. Much more compelling is the discovery of the prophesied Other and a father-son subplot that, interestingly, was added to the story during the development of the script. Starring Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Valery Zolotukhin, Maria Poroshina, Galina Tunina, Victor Verzhbitsky and Dima Martynov. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov. Written by Sergei Lukyanenko and Timur Bekmambetov. Produced by Anatoly Maximov and Konstantin Ernst. A Fox Searchlight release. Horror/Fantasy. Russian-language; subtitled. Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images and language. Running time: 114 min