starring Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Valeri Zolotukhin, Mariya Poroshina
screenplay by Timur Bekmambetov and Laeta Kalogridis
directed by Timur Bekmambetov
by Walter Chaw When it's not frantically whipping up arbitrary rules in its supernatural universe like the world's most convoluted (and expensive game) of Calvin-ball, Russian sensation Timur Bekmambetov's epileptic fusion of Highlander and The Matrix, Night Watch, comes off as every bit the puerile lightshow that such a union would imply. Consider the premise: Light and dark "Others" live amongst humans, sometimes not knowing that they're not human, frozen in a centuries-old truce policed through night and day watches (and a dusk watch, too, judging by the proposed title of the third film in this planned trilogy) that ensure both sides refrain from killing one another. They're all vampires, I guess, though some are also shapeshifters (or instead are shapeshifters, who knows?) and some are those Indian fakir surgeons who used to pretend to reach into human body cavities and yank out chicken guts. It's telling that no positive review of this film is complete without a mention that there's a sequel and, with it, the rationalization that the many narrative crimes of Night Watch are explicable within the need for extended exposition in the first chapter. (See also: The Phantom Menace.) Telling, also, that the best proof presented for the quality of the film is that it's the top-grossing film in Russian history--that is, until its sequel recently eclipsed its $16M gross with a $33M haul of its own.