'Nightwatch' sequel doesn't deliver

Posted: June 08, 2007

A case of Hollywood sequelitis has afflicted "Daywatch," a follow-up to the lovably crazy Russian horror movie "Nightwatch."

Most modern movies make vampires seem like bored clubgoers on a tired Goth kick. "Nightwatch," though, not only had more interesting creatures, it seemed to seep organically out of the uncertain Putin-era Russia, wherein the ruined hulk of the Soviet empire bumps uncomfortably against Wild West capitalism, with corruption squeezing both sides.

This clash was reflected in the story: Good and bad people (the Others) with special powers end a centuries-long war with a centuries-long detente. The Good Others live by day and police the Bad Others by night, and vice versa.

The balance is upset by a crazy bad guy determined to use provocation to return to the dark ages, and if I were Putin, I might take it personally.

The irony is he gets his chance via a mistake made by one of the good guys - top Good Other patrolman Anton, played by Konstantin Khabensky, who looks exactly like Count Floyd from SCTV.

The actor's anti-glamour was part of what gave "Nightwatch" its appealing oddball personality - the backdrop of decaying/regenerating Moscow, the Russian fashion, brands and consumer objects.

"Daywatch," though, has the fingerprints of Hollywood miscalculation. The story goes off in a dozen uninteresting directions, as if tampered with by the writing team from "Pirates of the Caribbean 3." The plot is driven by an absurd relic called the Chalk of Destiny, prized by forces of good and evil for its power to change the past, and therefore the present.

The sequel (based on a series of novels) has given Anton a son - drawn to the Dark Others, like Anakin Skywalker - and a girlfriend (Maria Poroshina) whose special powers are key to preserving the truce.

It's a promising novelty to see the unyielding maleness of Harry Potter/Luke Skywalker Chosen Ones assigned to a gal for a change, but "Daywatch" does nothing interesting with it.

Her character is passive and reactive, and the kid who goes to the dark side isn't the least bit interesting or creepy, even when he pops in his opaque contact lenses. "Daywatch" has some of the visual F/X inventiveness of the original, but without story or characters to ground it, it's just a lot of noise.

I'll make an exception for a sorceress named Olga (Galina Tyunina), who does for low-backed red-leather mini what Lana Turner did for the angora sweater. I was hoping she'll be around for Part 3, but I'm not sure she makes it. She goes for the Chalk of Destiny in the big finale, but may have gotten the eraser instead. *

In Russian with English subtitles. Produced by Konstantin Ernst and Anatoly Maximov, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, written by Sergei Lukyanenko and Vladimir Vasiliev, music by Yuri Poteyenko, distributed by Fox Searchlight.

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