After 'Nochnoi Dozor' ('Night Watch') became the biggest blockbuster in Russian cinematic history, it didn't take long for director Timur Bekmambetov to get working on the next installment in his proposed trilogy. The follow-up 'Dnevnoy Dozor' ('Day Watch') suffers the same faults as all too many sequels to successful movies. It's bigger, louder, more expensive, grander in scope, duller, dumber, repetitive, and derivative. It has all the weaknesses of the first film with fewer of the strengths.
'Day Watch' picks up some time after whatever the hell it was that happened at the end of 'Night Watch' (I still haven't figured that out). Our hero Anton Gorodetsky is now a grizzled and experienced agent of the Light Others, and has been tasked with dragging around a trainee named Svetlana. You may remember her as the cursed woman from the first film. You know, the blonde chick with the big glasses. With Anton's son Yegor entrenched on the Dark side, the balance between good and evil is wavering. It turns out that both Yegor and Svetlana are "Great Others" capable of entering the second level of Gloom, and if they ever meet bad things will happen. Or something like that. In the meantime, Anton has been framed for the murder of a Dark Other and must go on the run by switching bodies with Olga the owl girl. Gender swapping hilarity ensues. It seems that the frame-up is part of a ploy to break the centuries-long truce between Light and Dark and to reignite the ancient war. This is all brought about by the discovery of a legendary mystical object called the Chalk of Fate (literally a piece of chalk) and a deadly yo-yo of the apocalypse. Yes, really.
I'll give it this much, 'Day Watch' is less blatantly incoherent than 'Night Watch'. That's not to say that it makes much sense, but at least the action is a little less frenzied and you can sort of tell what's happening on screen at any given time. It is, however, a really dumb movie with silly action scenes, crappy CGI visual effects, and too many pointless subplots. Bekmambetov's lunatic visual sensibilities are just about the only thing to liven up the proceedings, but at 2 1/2 hours the movie just drags on and on and on. It also has a profoundly stupid twist ending that basically unwrites everything that happened in both movies, "Bobby Ewing in the shower" style.
Bekmambetov has been saying all along that the 'Watch' movies were designed as a trilogy. A third film titled 'Twilight Watch' set in the United States is in development now. Whether it will retain any of the characters or storylines from the first two movies is unclear. After the box office success of his American debut 'Wanted', I'm sure the director will be given a blank check to do whatever he feels like. That's a shame. Part of what made 'Wanted' so entertaining was the tension between Bekmambetov's outrageous vision and the constrictions of a traditional Hollywood production demanding of a relatively coherent narrative. Allowed to run unrestrained, as he was in both 'Watch' films, his movies quickly grow unfocused and tiring, like the work of a talented child with Attention Deficit Disorder. A little discipline can go a long way.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Day Watch' comes to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, released simultaneously with its predecessor 'Night Watch'. Unfortunately, unlike the first movie, the disc has an obnoxious Blu-ray promo before the main menu.
The package art describes the film as an "Unrated" cut. In this case, that means that it's the original 146-minute Russian theatrical cut. The movie had been trimmed down to 132 minutes for its American theatrical release.
The disc has only traditional text subtitles. It does not have the theatrical subtitles that were designed in a comic book style and interacted with the imagery on screen. Fox has also not bothered to translate the opening or closing credits, which appear printed on billboards and signs within the scene, thus completely ruining the joke.
Further, for no particular reason, the subtitles are positioned in both the upper and lower letterbox bars, effectively making the disc unwatchable on a 2.35:1 Constant Height projection screen. Thanks for nothing.
Attempting to paint the sequel on a broader canvas than the first film, 'Day Watch' was photographed in a "scope" 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer avoids the overly bright character that plagued 'Night Watch' on Blu-ray. If anything, the image is a little too dark, with only mediocre shadow detail. The oversaturated colors of the first movie are also not a problem here. Colors look just right, drab when they're supposed to be and popping (like the red sports car) when appropriate.
The picture has pretty good detail, but is just a little bit soft. It looks like some artificial sharpening has been applied to compensate. Edge ringing artifacts are minor and infrequent, but many parts of the movie (especially the Tamerlane prologue) look a bit edgy and "digital." The photography is often grainy as hell. The grain is well handled for the most part, but instances of high action such as the opening battle sometimes seem to exhibit compression problems.
Once again, the movie's original Russian-language soundtrack is presented in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 format, but generally sounds no better than a typical Dolby Digital or DTS track. I suspect that this is more the fault of the original production than the disc encoding
If 'Night Watch' was an aggressively loud soundtrack, 'Day Watch' is even louder. Bass activity is cleaner and deeper this time out, including a couple of nifty bass sweep effects. Surround action is also less echo-y and features more pinpoint localizations (those buzzing mosquitoes are back in force). However, dialogue and sound effects are typically dull, and the track has a very poor balance between quiet moments and blaring action scenes.
Fox has carried over all of the bonus features from the DVD. Too bad they don't amount to much.
I wasn't in love with 'Night Watch', and its sequel 'Day Watch' impressed me even less. As before, the Blu-ray has decent (not great) picture and sound quality. The bonus features this time out are almost a complete loss. Stick with a rental.