Inspired by the novel by Russian author Sergei Lukyanenko, Day Watch is a fantasy horror epic in which the supernatural beings Dark and Light battle each other for supremacy on the streets of contemporary Moscow.
The Day Watch are a team of Light beings who monitor the Dark Ones in order to protect mortals. After a member of the Day Watch (played by Konstantin Khabensky) is accused of killing one of the Dark Ones, the fragile truce between the forces of darkness and the forces of light is left hanging in the balance. In order to clear his name and prevent an open war, Anton embarks on a journey to find the ancient Chalk of Fate which, according to legend, can correct all mistakes.
When initially released in Russia, Day Watch became a major hit grossing over $30 million. It is partially easy to understand why it was so popular, for one thing, the effects are very impressive; being at once visceral and fantastic. Director Timur Bekmambetov says that the key to the look of the film was juxtaposing reality and fantasy; “The Russian audience doesn’t have any experience of this kind of film, because we’ve never had any fantasy movies or comic books…So the only way for me to begin was to make everything very realistic, so the audience would believe in it enough to accept the fantasy”. Bekmambetov thus creates a world in which a run-down appartment block is the home of an evil sorceress and an ordinary repair man is a powerful wizard.
Despite a promising start however, the flaws came thick and fast until by the end of the film I was literally aching to escape. Firstly, Bekmambetov somehow managed to make a relatively simple plot so unecessarily convoluted that the main thread of the narrative was irretrievably lost by the second half of the film. On top of this at 140 minutes Day Watch is just too long – by about 120 minutes. In other words, most of the film is a collection of gratuitous, utterly irrelevant, shots set to a pounding heavy metal soundtrack that left me feeling like I was watching an extended music video rather than a film. It’s almost as if the editors were so impressed with their own work that they couldn’t quite bring themselves to cut the film properly.
All this leaves me to conclude that Day Watch was made for two specific groups of people; fans of the book and people who enjoy watching films in which narrative and character development are substituted with bright colours and dazzling effects. If you feel you don’t belong to either of these groups, I’d give Day Watch a wide berth.