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Case Number 12290

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Day Watch

Fox // 2006 // 131 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // October 30th, 2007

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All Rise...

Judge Joel Pearce is now using techno background music at home.

Editor's Note

Our review of Day Watch (Blu-Ray), published September 26th, 2008, is also available.

The Charge

Why does the wind blow? To cover our tracks, so no one knows we're still alive…

Opening Statement

In my review of Night Watch, I talked about the danger of too much hype. The sequel, Day Watch, has certainly escaped that pressure. It's been pretty much ignored by everyone, slipping briefly into theatres, only to stumble quietly onto DVD a few months later. Fox has been banking on the success of the English-language third installment. It's a shame, too, because the second film is a solid notch above the first in quality. It's what the first film wanted to be: an exciting, dazzling fantasy extravaganza that embraces a totally fresh fantasy mythology.

Facts of the Case

Long ago, a prophecy was made about a new Great One who would shift the balance of power between the Others, plunging the world into darkness. It looks suspiciously like Yegor (Dmitri Martynov) will be that Great One, and that a battle is soon approaching. The conflict is triggered as an unregistered vampire starts to commit murders around Moscow. Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) soon finds himself framed for murder, and the Day Watch wants a piece of him. With the help of Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina) and Olga (Galina Tyunina), Anton seeks out the chalk of fate, the only artifact that can clear his name and prevent apocalypse.

The Evidence

When word came that Fox had taken control of the second and third installments of the Night Watch series—forcing director Timur Bekmambetov to squeeze the second and third movie into Day Watch and set up the third film to be shot in English—many fans dismissed Day Watch as a failure, sight unseen. They are truly missing out. The second installment takes everything that made the original great and ramps it up a few notches, and takes out most of the things that made the first installment suffer. It is a fast-paced adrenaline rush, and it pulls us out of the world we're used to. Like the best fantasy, it peels back the familiar world to show us something that we've never seen before, but can almost believe if we try hard enough.

In the process, Bekmambetov has become a much better director as well. The second film in the series moves along at a better pace, injecting true pathos and sensitivity and slowing down a little on the fancy camera tricks. The special effects now serve the story, rather than the other way around. That's not to say there aren't a bunch of cool moments in Day Watch, though, because there are. The scene where the car is driven along the side of an apartment building is beyond cool, and the apocalypse that faces Moscow is one of the most brilliantly conceived sequences I've seen in years. Bottom line: this movie is a blast to watch, and feels far more epic than its running time would suggest. With this series, we've seen grand fantasy in the making, and it will be looked back on as a birthplace of a new Russian pop cinema.

The Night Watch mythology remains puzzling, unique, and engaging. This was a problem in the first movie, as we tried to grasp for meaning somewhere in the mass of obscure references and half-explained phenomena. Here, though, it's easier to accept the ambiguity. The plot is more streamlined, and the chalk of fate is explained well enough to keep the story moving. There are only a few sequences in the gloom, and even that makes more sense this second time around. The cinematography has gotten a bit more stable, so it's easier to tell what's going on. There are still bursts of wild techno music and ridiculous camera moves, but that's all part of the charm of the series. Most importantly, the conclusion of Day Watch closes off the story nicely. There's no sense that this is the second of three parts, and there aren't any loose ends from cramming two stories into one film.

In theatres, Fox released a truncated version of Day Watch. I'm pleased to announce that this, too, has been rectified on DVD. This version of the film is completely unaltered and uncut, and includes the original language track as well as properly translated subtitles. The English dub, should you choose to go that route, is also excellent, and sounds like most of the original actors were used for English as well. I can't comment on the video transfer, as I am reviewing a compressed test disc, but my guess is that it will be near-reference quality. The sound transfer is nearly flawless, as sound fills the expansive stage and offers plenty of kick in the low end. It's not a subtle transfer, but it's consistently engaging.

We get some special features this time around, too, including a director's commentary. It's an impressive commentary, as Bekmambetov speaks frankly about his experiences making the film. He discusses the good and the bad, exploring major victories and minor failures. There's a production feature as well, which does a good job of going over the new sequences. There isn't much new to see here, but some of the sequences are quite impressive to see broken down.

Closing Statement

I really dig Day Watch a lot. I had a hard time believing that Bekmambetov would be able to pull off two movies in one, but my doubts are now gone. This is a fantastic action/adventure, one that should be experienced by as many people as possible. I'm even getting hopeful about that third installment. Fox has learned its lesson as well, and hasn't mucked with the work of a craftsman this time around.

The Verdict

Not guilty. Don't send the Day Watch after me…

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 95
Extras: 70
Acting: 96
Story: 95
Judgment: 95

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Russian)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 131 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Genres:
• Adventure
• Fantasy
• Foreign
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• Director's Commentary
• Russian Television Spots
• Production Featurette

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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