Writer-director Timur Bekmambetov's WATCH trilogy, of which this is the first installment, has been hailed as Russia's answer to the MATRIX films, and whether that's a recommendation or a warning is entirely a matter of personal taste. The story begins in 1342 in the Languedoc region of France, an area soaked with the blood of successive religious wars. On a stone bridge, the Warriors of Light, an army dedicated to eradicating witches and sorcerers, come face to face with the Warriors of Darkness, and the ensuing battle rages until the forces of Heaven itself must intercede. A truce is brokered: Good and evil will retain footing in the world and have free rein to recruit human beings to their respective causes, but there will be rules, there will be balance, and there will be supervision. The Night Watch, a consortium of benevolent clairvoyants and shape-shifters, will keep watch over the forces of darkness. The Day Watch, a cabal of vampires and sorcerers, will keep their glowing eyes on the ranks of the virtuous. But there will come a day when the Other who will tip the balance is born. Flash-forward to Moscow in 1992: Jilted husband Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) visits a witch in hopes of getting back his wife, Irina (Mariya Mironova). The witch warns that Irina is already pregnant by her new lover, and that a baby will bind her to her lover. Hexing an unborn child to death is a great stain on one's soul, but Anton agrees to accept that burden right before three agents of the Night Watch burst in and interrupt the incantation. Their arrival also reveals that Anton has the sight: He can see them as well as snippets of the future. Flash-forward again, to Moscow in 2004: Anton has joined the Night Watch and something awful is in the air. Moscow is assailed by freak weather and disturbing omens. A boy named Yegor (Dima Martynov) is "called" by vampires, and a curse has transformed a woman named Svetlana (Maria Poroshina) into a sort of supernatural Typhoid Mary who trails destruction from her fingertips and has inadvertently opened the Funnel of Damnation. Working from a novel by Sergei Lukyanenko (who also cowrote the screenplay), Bekmambetov has fashioned a rip-roaring pulp adventure aswarm with flies, bugs and a righteous murder of crows. While it echoes a host of CGI-heavy, action-oriented supernatural thrillers, it manages to retain its own distinct identity. Although this first chapter in a three-part tale is inevitably overburdened with back story, it ends on one hell of a cliff-hanger.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: R
- Review: Writer-director Timur Bekmambetov's WATCH trilogy, of which this is the first installment, has been hailed as Russia's answer to the MATRIX films, and whether that's a recommendation or a warning is entirely a matter of personal taste. The story begins in… (more)