Writer-director Timur Bekmambetov's second go at Sergei Lukyanenko's trilogy of horror fantasies is just as entertaining as his first, NIGHT WATCH (2004), and picks up a few years after the first film left off. First, the mythology: The forces of light and darkness forged a truce in the 14th century, giving each equal footing on earth and free reign to recruit human souls to either side. Two consortiums — the Night Watch, made up of benevolent supernatural beings, and the Day Watch, comprising their darker brethren — will keep an eye on each other's activities and maintain the status quo. But one day, two "Great Others" will be born: Should they meet, all-out war will erupt, with disasterous consequences for the world's puny humans.
Anton (Konstantin Khabensky), an agent of the Night Watch, is the father of one of these cosmic tie-breakers — adolescent Yegor (Dima Martynov), who has allied himself with vampire Zavulon (Viktor Verzhbitsky), a major Day Watch player. Anton is also the diffident suitor of the other tie-breaker, trainee Night Watch enforcer Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina). It's a sticky position to be in, though Anton has matured greatly from the first film, in which he discovered his part in the metaphysical mayhem and rose to the challenge of trying to contain it. Zavulon (Victor Verzhbitsky), true to his nature, is doing his damnedest to create chaos, aided by punked-out sorceress Alisa (Russian rock star Zhanna Friske), whose great weakness is her love for fledgling vampire Kostya (Aleksei Chadov). As Zavulon prepares a huge birthday celebration for Yegor, Anton is sidetracked by the quest for the Chalk of Fate, which allows the person who possesses it to change his or her fate by writing with it. The chalk has been hidden since the time of Central Asian warrior-king Tamerlane in a monastery in Samarkand in northern Iran, but the Night Watch has reason to believe it's no longer there. Further complicating matters, Anton has been framed for a truce violation and must hide from the Day Watch by switching bodies with his colleague and former partner Olga (Galina Tyunina).
And there's more — much, much more. Intricate though the plot is, Bekmambetov's gleefully hyperbolic, go-for-broke directing style almost overwhelms it. And that's not really a criticism: The film is a Catherine wheel, spinning and throwing off sparks in so many directions that without the director's sheer delight in near chaos, the story could easily bog down in its mix of cumulative incident and complicated interpersonal drama. But with Bekmambetov at the helm, it's a high-energy blast. (In Russian and Chagatai) leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh