Timur Bekmambetov’s “Night Watch” movies seem to wear their frenetic style and near-incomprehensibility as a badge of honor. Fans of the Russian dark-fantasy films — about vampires and other supernatural creatures living among us — take delight in the confusion they feel watching the films, reveling in the insane images being projected on the screen.
Myself, I’m not quite as able to give myself over to befuddlement, though there is certainly a lot to enjoy in “Night Watch” and now in its sequel, “Day Watch.” The films are easily the most Hollywoodized Russian movies I’ve seen, full of Michael Bay-style action sequences and thick with comic-book-inspired mythology. You can get a kick out of them even if you don’t always know what’s going on — but eventually that confusion starts to grate on the nerves, or at least it does mine.
“Day Watch” picks up more or less where “Night Watch” left off, and heaven help you if you have not seen “Night Watch.” The situation is this: The age-old truce between the Light Others and the Dark Others (measured by how evil they are, not their skin color) is increasingly fragile, and now elements are in place that could bring about war. Yegor (Dima Martynov), a 12-year-old boy with special Dark Other powers, is being trained by his masters, while Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina), a Light one and a rookie in the peace-keeping Night Watch force, has hidden powers that complement Yegor’s. For some reason, it is important to stop these two powerful Others from ever meeting.
Yegor’s father, Anton (Konstantin Khabensky), is a Light Other, and he’s Svetlana’s partner in the Night Watch. When Yegor’s teacher, Galina (Irina Yakovleva), is found dead in an apartment building’s stairwell, Anton is a suspect and goes on the run, with the Dark ones trying to prove his guilt while the Light ones try to prove his innocence.
Also, there is a gold-painted man who was guarding the Chalk of Fate, which is an actual piece of chalk that can be used to grant wishes, and now both sides want it for their own wish-granting purposes. Also, there’s a guy who can be a bird if he wants to. Also, at one point Anton and Olga (Galina Tyunina), a female coworker, trade bodies. This is ostensibly to help Anton hide from the Dark Others who want to arrest him, but that doesn’t make any sense. Wouldn’t they just arrest the person who looks like him, regardless of whose soul is currently inhabiting his body? “I’m not Anton! I’m someone else in Anton’s body!” Yeah, yeah. Tell it to the judge, pal.
The climactic scene takes place at Yegor’s birthday party, a grand event on the top floor of a hotel attended by all the Dark dignitaries and crashed by Anton and some of his colleagues. I cannot begin to describe the weirdness that takes place, except to say that you’ve never seen one drop of blood matter so much to so many people.
It’s a bizarre film, but it’s a mirthful one. Bekmambetov wants us to be entertained, not perplexed. While I’m sure he’s aware how bewildering his movies can be, I get the impression he wants that to be part of the fun. And so it is, I suppose. Wearying and hard to follow at times, sure, but fun.
B- (2 hrs., 12 min.; Russian with subtitles; )