Night Watch (2004)

Pretty much the only thing I know about Russia is that that’s where the vodka lives. I have this vague impression that they all wear furry hats and do crazy dances, but I’m straying into racist territory here, so I’ll return to the point, which is this: Apparently, Russians also make sub-Constantine good-vs-evil epics.

The story is exactly the same as every other movie and book of the same genre for approximately the last 50 years: there are supernatural beings amongst us, some of whom are good, some of whom are bad. One day, a huge fistfight is going to kick off, and the fate of all creation will hang in the balance. Night Watch does, at least, score points for not naming one of their factions after tree fungus, but makes up for that in the ridiculousness stakes by doing things like including clips of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sarah Michelle Gellar, dubbed into Russian, with English subtitles. It’s enough to make grown men cry.

Because apparently the bad guys are eminently stupid, they agreed to a centuries long truce, under the conditions of which, good keeps an eye on evil and vice versa. Only secretly, the good guys are actually in charge, and the bad guys are starting to get annoyed about it. Prophecy says that one day, a “Great Other” will be born, and the war will begin again in earnest. Whichever side he chooses will ultimately be victorious. Our hero is one of the “Light Others”, the good guys, the “Night Watch”; a vampire who only drinks blood when he needs to tap into his Otherness to hunt for “Dark Others” who’re up to no good. His prey this time is a newly created female vampire, whose vampire lover he’s killed, who is trying desperately to eat a kid who just happens to be the protagonist’s secret son, who also just happens to be the Great Other. Confused? There’s also a load of pointless shapeshifters, a woman known as the Virgin that encountered the protagonist on a bus and has, by cursing herself, caused the apocalypse to be set in motion, and a load of other pointless people who were occasionally in charge of the world, but it’s really hard to care. Especially when, at the climax of all the action, the film gives up and computer game graphics take over. Hands up how many of you just checked to see whether Uwe Boll was involved in this movie.

The computer game similarities don’t end there: Others possess the ability to slip into another dimension known as the Gloom. It’s kind of like the spirit realm in Soul Reaver, really, except instead of increasing a character’s health, the Gloom drains it. Stay in the Gloom too long, and it’ll consume you. This whole Other-dimension thing leads to one utterly confusing scene in which vampires can only be seen using a mirror, whilst they’re invisible in reality.

Night Watch is full to the brim of ideas, which it uses in rapid succession, one on top of the other, in the hope that no-one will notice none of them are very good. To add to all of that nonsense, far too much effort has gone into the subtitling: titles appear in different colours, dissolve into smoky puffs, and bounce erratically around the screen. After a while, it’s just sort of distracting. Working on a shoe-string budget, Night Watch does, in all fairness, do a lot of pretty things, but ultimately, it’s all just kind of hollow.

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