When it comes to mainstream cinema few would think of Russia having a thriving industry. They do, and one of the most successful movies in recent years is Night Watch (or Nochnoi Dozor as they call it). With a production budget of a rather paltry (compared to America) $US4.2 million - which remains one of the most expensive movies made in Russia - the film grossed four times that in its home country, and almost $US34 million worldwide making it a smash hit. But what's it about?
All That Stands Between Light And Darkness Is The Night Watch. Among normal humans live the "Others" possessing various supernatural powers. They are divided up into the forces of light and the forces of the dark, who signed a truce several centuries ago to end a devastating battle. Ever since, the forces of light govern the day while the night belongs to their dark opponents. In modern day Moscow the dark Others actually roam the night as vampires while a "Night Watch" of light forces, among them Anton, the movie's protagonist, try to control them and limit their outrage.
One could almost liken this movie to the Blade trilogy of films with two warring factions of vampires - or Others as they are called in this movie. Some of the cinematography is superb and while the visual effects are variable in quality (the yellow truck flipping over is horrendous) for such a low budget movie the results are impressive - including that of the opening prologue battle. The storyline is rather complex and will certainly be aided by the sequel Day Watch and the upcoming third movie Twilight Watch.
Director Timur Bekmambetov isn't quite the household name outside Russia, but some of you may know him from the recent Angelina Jolie action movie Wanted. He gets the best out of the actors who are all quite likable with Konstantin Khabensky starring as Anton as his world falls apart around him while the action sequences are pretty exciting and intense - including the opening prologue which has a passing resemblance to the battles in Lord of the Rings (although no where near as epic).
It must be noted that the version received on this disc is the 114 minute International version which trims about 10 minutes of footage out of the movie, and adds an English voiceover on the prologue. Despite the lack of Russian version of this film this remains a very entertaining, and somewhat different movie, that only seems to get better with repeat viewings.
The disc also contains English, German and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks which are encoded at 448kbps. It would have been nice to have a better quality English dub of the movie. It's not bad mind you, but a little disappointing for those that prefer that option. In fact we sampled the English dubbing and found it to be pretty good overall.
We've already discussed our disappointments with the subtitles provided on this release in the main part of this review - that being the original burnt in stylish subtitles are missing. Also annoying is the English subtitles remaining during the English voiceovers for the prologue and epilogue.
Audio Commentary by Director Timur Bekmambetov: Fortunately Timur manages to speak in rather clear English but, unfortunately, the commentary isn't one of the best out there with lengthy gaps, and some questionable statements. Still, he's an interesting director with a potentially big Hollywood future so it's worth a listen.
Text Commentary by Novelist Sergei Lukyanenko: The author of the movie details story elements, how these differ from the books, and actually clears up some of the confusion in the movie. Worth putting on while watching the movie with the English dub (unless you understand Russian and put that audio on instead).
The Making of Night Watch (39:03): A lengthy and fairly impressive look at the making of Night Watch. Much of this documentary is in Russian with subtitles, but there is plenty of behind the scenes footage and plenty of interviews as well.
Characters Story and Subtitles (5:06): A promotional piece looking at telling the story and the characters. The most interesting, and depressing aspect, is that they detail the importance of making the subtitles a part of the movie - but someone should have told the people encoding this disc
Characters and Themes (5:15): Another fox promotional piece which looks at the themes in the story. Not much detail here.
Comic Book Still Gallery (8:44): Now this is confusing. It seems to tell the story in comic book form, but the original books were a novel so I'm not sure where this comes from. Still it's quite interesting.
Poster Gallery: Eight posters for the movie are shown in slide show form.
Review By: Dave Warner