a critiQal film review Day Watch (2006)

Plot: A medieval truce between the Light and the Dark has kept an uneasy peace for years. But now, each side has gained a powerful Great One: For the light, it's Anton's love interest Svetlana (Poroshina); for the dark, it's his son, Yegor (Martynov). On the run for murder, Anton (Khabensky) must find the long-lost 'Chalk Of Fate' - or the battle to come may end everything.

Reviewed
580 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 54s)

After seeing the preview chock full of special effects and fancy driving (on a building!), we definitely wanted to take a look at the film that was all the rage in Russia last year, Dnevnoy Dozor, when it made its way to the US as Day Watch. As it happens, this turns out to be a sequel to a film we’d never heard of before now, Night Watch. Toss in the fact that we would probably spend the whole film reading subtitles in the theater, so we decided to wait for the dubbed version once the film hit DVD.

With the actors being concentrated in Russia, most viewers will probably have never heard their names before (much less be able to pronounce them), so will be totally unrecognizable to the American audience. When a film is dubbed or subtitled, everyone and everything on the film has to work overtime to keep the viewers’ interest. While some films are able to overcome this (like Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) and the film that started Franka Potente’s career in the US, Run Lola Run), Day Watch doesn’t quite manage it…but it’s not really through any fault of the actors themselves.

While Run Lola Run used repetition to help drive it’s plot, and Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) used a classic story (werewolf attack) to familiarize it’s viewer with it’s basic plot line, both films also used a small cast, preventing the likelihood of viewers forgetting the complicated names. In Day Watch, they instead go for a much more complicated plot and toss in a plethora of characters, making the viewer feel lost and disoriented for most of the film. Since the viewer is lost among the names and complicated storyline, they tend to distance themselves from the film, losing the sense of illusion the film tries to create.

Instead of using either a simple (i.e. familiar) plot or limiting the cast of characters, Day Watch tries to capture it’s viewers with a stunning array of special effects. Unfortunately, that’s also how the preview tried to entice viewers, so most of the major special effects in the film have already been seen during the preview, which causes them to lose a bit of their punch in the film.

Still, the special effects in Day Watch are unique and are worth seeing again…especially the car driving across a building, then crashing into an office. It’s impressive to watch, but it’s the small things they toss in that make the scenes extraordinary. In the spectacular car driving scene, for example, it’s the shot of the woman washing the inside of the window as the car makes a tire track across the outside that really brings the effect home to the viewers.

Unfortunately, with it’s complicated plot and larger cast of characters mixed in with the unreality of dubbing or subtitles, the special effects are more high points in a disappointing mess rather than a high point in a captivating film. This is one movie that should be seen in it’s native language, as the truly impressive vision behind Day Watch has gotten blurred on its trip to the US.

If you’re looking for just a highlight reel of special effects, and don’t mind waiting for what seems to be an awfully long time between each effect, then Day Watch is worth it. If, however, you’re looking to be entertained for over 2 hrs and don’t speak Russian, another one of the summer blockbusters might be more worth your time.

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