The online geeks have been mighty restless lately, breathlessly trumpeting the domestic arrival of what has already been pegged as the Russian Matrix. While certainly filthy with Western influences, Night Watch, co-writer-director Timur Bekmambetov's genially incoherent native blockbuster (the first in a projected trilogy), is at its best when it taps into its own cultural wellspring of downright weirdness. I'm not sure what the hell I saw, but I wouldn't mind watching more of it.
Adapted from Sergei Lukyanenko's novel, the scenario leans heavily on the Joseph Campbell template: While attending a sleazy fortune teller session, an everyday schlub (Konstantin Khabensky) is made aware of his inclusion in the ranks of the Others, an army of supernatural dudes who maintain an uneasy balance between the Light and the Dark. Flash-forward a few years, and Khabensky's decked out in Keanu-wear, fighting vampires and attempting to forestall a world-ending prophecy. Also, there's a guy who likes to use his own spine as a broadsword. The plot, it should be said, makes absolutely no sense at all, and at times comes perilously close to feeling like a dead-on parody of the infamous Turkish Star Wars or Indian Superman (Khabensky's slight resemblance to SCTV vet Joe Flaherty does not help matters.)
On the plus side, the bounding, color-coded subtitles are nifty, and a number of the set pieces (most notably a fight scene with a mirror-dwelling vamp) have some of the "holy crap, did I just see that?" vibe of the early Hong Kong import explosion. What finally lingers past all of the fangs and borscht and explosions, though, is the endearing oddness of its tone, a downbeat, slogging feel to all the derring-do that's somehow distinctly Russian.