Day Watch (RU - DVD)
Gabe enters the second level of the Gloom for part two of the epic series...
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Warning: I cannot sum up the plot of Day Watch without spoiling some of the plot of Night Watch. Tread with caution.
The promised truce between the powers of Darkness and the powers of Light dangles by a thread. Anton, member of the Night Watch continues his role in the cosmic ballet, now aware that his son is the One, and a member of the army of the Darkness. We find him training the future White Witch, the only member of the Light army that can stand up to his offspring when the time comes. To make matters worse, Anton has been framed in the murder of a popular member of the Darkness, a crime that is not only punishable by death, but that may bring about the resurgence of the Light/Dark war.
Night Watch was an interesting, imaginative thriller, but suffered from a fractured narrative that left the audience with more questions than answers. It was a flawed, but entertaining work. The sequel, Day Watch, is a near masterpiece, and makes Night Watch a better film for it. The one thing even those disappointed in Night Watch seemed to agree on was that they wanted to see the planned sequel. Day Watch carries the story and characters through their arcs, and effectively brings the series to a satisfying conclusion (which is interesting, considering the series is supposedly a trilogy). However, without seeing the flawed majesty of Night Watch, Day Watch will not make a lick of sense to anyone. In fact, maybe even two viewings of the prequel will prove necessary.
Though not the man in power, Anton is the centre of the story, and his actions will lead to the salvation or destruction of humanity. At the base of the story is the theme of love—the love between fathers and sons, wives and husbands, new lovers, and best friends. The choices that characters make out of love or lack there of, propel nearly every salvation and betrayal in the film. Day Watch deals maturely with the concepts of jealousy, and fidelity, creating a world where misunderstandings can lead to mass destruction.
The mass destruction is more on the 'mass' side this time around. I'm assuming Day Watch’s budget out grosses its predecessors by a pretty healthy margin, because the action is large. The scope can be summed up by the ridiculous sequence where the Dark leader's wife drives her bright red sports car along the side of their multi-story headquarters, crashes through a window, tears down the hallway, and breaks down the office door. The stunning flashback opening where Mongol horses literally break down the walls of a Dark fortress earns the Lord of the Rings meets The Matrix comparisons made by over zealous critics when the first film came out. This is weird, wild, exciting and imaginative stuff.
I hope that the rumours about the third entrée being recast and made in Hollywood are false because this story is a Russian one, and I can't imagine this working as well minus the exotic angle. And the cast is great. The first half of the film is phenomenally amusing, particularly the sequence of events following Anton's body switch with a woman. These actors are especially sharp when it comes to impersonating each other, and they own these characters. The humour and warmth threaten to deaden the intensity and fascination, but never quite over-step their bounds.
Day Watch ends the same way Night Watch did, with the audience asking questions, only this time instead of wondering what they just saw they'll be wondering what happens next. Instead of building confusion this film develops intrigue, intrigue into the characters, their pasts, and their universe. The script is brave enough to throw away some of its most inspired ideas in favour of keeping the plot moving. Like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and (meh) Harry Potter, Day Watch inspires us to see the next chapter, even if the series seems to have reached it's conclusion.
The Russian release of Night Watch that I reviewed back in December was lacking in the video field. It was grainy, dark, and lacking true blacks. At the time I was under the impression that it was the only release on the market. I have since discovered that I was wrong and that there was a legitimate R0 NTSC release also released from Russia. According to all accounts it was a better transfer.
For this review I've gotten a hold of a similar legitimate R0 NTSC disc of Day Watch, also produced in Russia. I guess those Russians know there's money to be made in the North American and Asian markets. Anyway, things look great. Except where necessary, the image is clean and detail levels sharp. Attentive viewers may notice some digital blocking and noise during some of the faster paced sequences. Occasionally dark scenes have some issues with colour bleeding, but these scenes are surprisingly few and far between. Apparently the titles of the films are meant to be taken somewhat literally as this film is much brighter in general than its antecessor. It's also presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. Night Watch was presented in the less wide 1.85:1 format. This may be another indicator of budget inflation.
The R5 PAL Night Watch disc also had problems with its 5.1 Dolby Digital track, which has some decent surround effects, but seemed to have been recorded at a lower volume level because it had to be turned up to dangerous levels to compare to tracks found in similar films. This volume issue caused a slight hissing on the track as well.
Day Watch has a far superior Dolby Digital track, which while still utilizing effective directional effects manages to have the appropriate vibrancy. This means action sequences have more (excuse the pun) punch, and the wild surround effects of the extra-dimensional Gloom fights are almost overwhelmingly intense. Audiophiles should especially enjoy the indicative climax where all the characters literally and figuratively collide. This is a very solid track, on par with big budget North American releases.
The biggest problem with the disc, and the one thing that makes it a placeholder until the eventual (but as yet unannounced) US and UK releases is the subtitle track. Those who had the fortune to see Night Watch during its US and UK theatrical runs, or that got their hands on the new UK release, know that the filmmakers went out of their way to create unique and involving subtitles. Most likely they'll do the same thing for Day Watch. This probably isn't all that important to most readers, but what may sway their opinions in the matter is that fact that this disc's subtitles are severely lacking. On screen text almost never lines up with what's audibly being spoken, and occasionally the subtitles drop out all together. This wasn't a big enough problem that I (a man not known for his attention skills when it comes to plot) was ever lost as to what was going on at any given time, but it was frustrating.
This was a rather barebones disc. Included are a trailer, a music video, and a making of featurette, all in Russian audio only. The music video is a Russian hip-hop song, set to the epic opening battle, with inter-cut footage of a shirtless Ruskie pointing at the camera a lot. The making of seems to be more of an elongated advertisement, but it's nice to see the cast and crew's enthusiasm.
Day Watch comes highly recommended from this critic. It improves on its predecessor’s foundation and is most likely the epic entertainment world cinema fans were looking for in the original. There's a little bit of everything that makes modern film exciting here; offbeat characters, epic action, a genre-spanning story line, and genuine romance. This disc has some questionable subtitles and a lack of special features, but should act as a proper place marker for the eventual worldwide releases. As of yet there aren't even any theatrical release dates for the Europe or North America, so the more impatient among us may want to get in on the action now.
You can purchase this, and many other euro imports from Xploitedcinema.com.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Release Date: 24th April 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Russian, Dolby Digital 2.0 Russian
Extras: Trailer, Music Video, Featurette
Easter Egg: No
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Cast: Konstantin Khabensky, Aleksei Chadov, Yuri Kutsenko
Genre: Action, Adventure, Horror and Sci-Fi
Length: 141 minutes
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