Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Night Watch (2004)

This film caused quite the splash in geek circles when it was brought to an English-speaking audience.  Riding high on the back of several effusive reviews, it was quite the buzz there for a while.

I never saw it at the time, but finally sat down to watch it.  So: does it live up to the hype?

Well, no.

I think this is a case where style - which the film does have - covered for a lack of substance.  The film has a strong visual aesthetic, and some well-staged action scenes.  There's a fight between the protagonist and a vampire, relatively early in the piece, that is tense and exciting stuff.

So anyway, the premise of the story is that long ago, one human cursed another, and the evil effects of this curse allowed 'Dark Others' to come into the world.  Vampires and the like.  This in turn caused 'Light Others' to rise to confront them.  The two sides fought each other to a bloody stalemate and then agreed a truce.  Each side would police the other's adherence to the truce, and every 'Other' (anyone born with special powers) must be allowed to freely choose between dark and light.

Anton accidentally stumbles into the world of the others when he goes to a witch in hopes of a spell that will bring back his wife, who has left him for another man.  The witch tells Anton his wife is pregnant, and the child is not his, and that for his wife to come back, the baby must miscarry.  He agrees to this.

Which is when the 'Night Watch', agents of the Light Others, burst in to prevent the witch from casting the spell.  The fact that Anton sees this happen reveals that he too is an Other, and 12 years later, he's (a) a member of the Night Watch himself and (b) very much single.

From there, the film follows two separate threads, both of which impact on Anton.  The first is the development of another curse, one which might end the truce and lead to open warfare between Light and Dark.  The second is the attempts of a neophyte vampire to feed for the first time, and Anton's efforts to thwart her.

How these plot threads are resolved is kind of where the movie falls down, for me.  One thread gets wrapped up with a whimper, not a bang, while the other's resolution is textbook "Tune in for the Sequel!" stuff.  The film also suffers from a lack of developed characters.  We get introduced to several agents on both sides of the Light/Dark divide, but never really get a chance to know them beyond the plot points they're there to fulfill.  And that's a best case scenario: one character is introduced to be Anton's bodyguard (and quite a big deal is made of it, too) and then never really actually does any guarding.

So overall, I can't recommend this.

Tomorrow, I'll be checking out that sequel they wanted us to tune in for.  It had a less positive reception when it came out.  Which either means it's really bad, or I'm actually going to enjoy it.  Or both!

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