Night Watch, in Russian with English subtitles, is an intense, if convoluted horror fantasy. It's the first of Sergei Lukyanenko's otherworldly trilogy, and a much more creative and visceral experience than Underworld: Evolution. It won a nomination for Best Foreign-Language Picture at last year's Oscars.
Co-writer Lukyanenko sets the action initially, with shades of The Matrix and Lord of the Rings, in 1992 Moscow around Anton, invigorated by Konstantin Khabensky.
Anton realizes his true self as an "Other" with supernatural qualities coerced by "Light" and "Dark" forces in a lingering conflict. He'll become part of the Light's Night Watch ("Nochnoi Dozor") possibly affecting a ceasefire as events lead ever so close to present times. This pulsating cinema has Anton on the trail of an unfortunate lady (Maria Poroshina) and a very likeable young kid (Dima Martynov) who've accidentally encroached into something perilous. It's hard to keep order between the rulers while being vigilant to the presence of the prophesized "Great Other."
The direction offers a gritty, cutting-edge feel to Moscow and nuance to a variety of characters, aerated with expression by a cast in sync with the vastness of it all hectically coagculating.
Working from Anton, perhaps an Eastern-European variation on Keanu Reeves' Neo, Night Watch turns sharply from its ominous premise with plenty of striking, forceful images on the screen. Necessity is the mother of invention which often runs convoluted and wild with ironic cynicism towards contemporary times. And, there's no obscurity with subtitles that take flight in their own way in a picture that vividly understands its mythology, as well as the human element. A slick, sonorous package which brews with edge and emotion eager to leave an impression and some confusion on the most attentive of onlookers.