Day Watch is the second film of a trilogy based on a popular series of Russian fantasy novels. Judging from its mix of hidden worlds, elaborate mythology, and sunglasses, it’s supposed to remind you of the Harry Potter series mixed with the Matrix trilogy, but in practice it plays more like an overlong Russian equivalent of the Blade movies. I admit that I haven’t seen Night Watch, the first installment, but I’m not so sure it matters, in as much as it’s hard to imagine Day Watch making any more or less sense than it does.
The boilerplate mythology is pretty easy to pick up, anyway: “dark ones” and “light ones” police each other in a tenuous truce, unknown to the human world at large, that could break into an Armageddon-level war if things get out of hand. Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabensky) is a man caught in the middle: He is a Night Watch member in love with his ultra-powerful trainee Svetlana (Maria Poroshina), but also wants to save his young son Egor (Dima Marynov) from a dark-side upbringing.
As silly as the story might sound, it’s the dour, flat performances that keep the material at arm’s length, with Poroshina particularly unconvincing as an occasional action heroine. Wintry Moscow locations give the visuals a boost, as does an array of special effects impressive less for what they do than how cheaply they do it; the budget was apparently about a quarter of what similar American films would spend. Indeed, the most entertaining aspect of Day Watch is its quasi-stylish aesthetic: Hollywood junk and goofy Eurotrash squished together in a compactor. In other words, Luc Besson must be turning purple with jealousy.