To misquote Cole Porter, “Night” and “Day,” you’re not the ones. “Day Watch,” Russian director Timur Bekmambetov’s follow-up to “Night Watch,” is a bit less visually murky than its predecessor, but in narrative terms it’s at least as bleary and incoherent, another wacko chapter in what amounts to a post-Soviet variant of the “Underworld” saga. All that it proves is that the Russkis can make genre pieces as vacuous and nonsensical as any Hollywood studio, though—it must be admitted—without similarly staggering CGI. (The effects on display here look like the sort of stuff that geeky computer nerds might, and often do, toss together on their PCs—which perhaps explains why so many of them seem to have taken to these empty displays of cheesy visuals.)
The story, such as it is, continues the barely comprehensible plot from the first picture, which is recapitulated—in a hilariously stuffed prologue—here. The premise is that there’s a centuries-long truce between two groups of hostile beings, Warriors of Light and Warriors of Darkness, policed by a group of humans with supernatural powers called “Others.” The leader of the Darkness group, Zavulon (Viktor Verzhbitsky), wants to arrange a breach of the truce to resume the war and destroy the world—out of sheer spite, it seems. His pawn is young Yegor (Dima Mautynov), the son of Other Anton (Konstantin Khabensky), who hates his father and who just happens to be a particularly powerful “Great” Dark Warrior. Apparently the truce can be shattered by having Anton framed for killing a Dark Warrior—a scheme that involves a butcher (Valeri Zolotukhin) with a vampire son named Kostya (Aleksei Chadov) who’s beloved of Zavulon’s lieutenant Alisa (Zhanna Friske)—and arranging a confrontation between Yegor and Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina), a “Great” Warrior from the Light side whom Anton is training among the watchers and who’s fallen for him. Also involved in all the shenanigans are Gesser (Vladimir Menshov), Anton’s boss and Zavulon’s “Light” opposite, and Olga (Galina Tyunina), another watcher with whom—in order to protect Anton—Gesser forces him at one point to exchange bodies.
Anton also exchanges bodies at another stage of the story, I think, with another person—a hit-man who, unless I’m mistaken, has previously been transformed by Zavulon from a parrot into the guy. If that sounds absurd, it’s no more so than the fact that characters pass periodically into an alternate zone called the Gloom—a term that is a rare instance of truth in screenwriting, given that the movie will probably send you deep into that very emotion—or that one of the big plot devices here is something called the Chalk of Fate, an oversized piece of limestone with which one can “rewrite” history (and which once apparently was the key to the conquests of the great Mongol leader Tamerlane). All sides here are seeking control of that little item, which does come in handy at the end, when “Day Watch” closes with an idiotic flourish that’s the equivalent of Emily Litella’s old refrain, “Oh, never mind.” It’s even dumber than the turn-the-world-back closing that nearly ruined the original “Superman” movie.
But in this case there’s nothing good for the ending to ruin. “Day Watch” is, quite simply, a brainless mess whose narrative wackiness is matched by the trashy way it’s executed. The acting is atrocious across the board, the direction operatically overwrought, the cinematography extravagantly woozy and the editing exhaustingly spastic. It’s not fun, or even vaguely elegant, in the way that, for example, a piece of similar nonsense like “Highlander” was. The movie is simply the cinematic equivalent of a bludgeon that wallops you into a sort of mindless stupor with its brazenly stupid plot and chintzy visual pyrotechnics. If that’s the sort of mental state you’re searching to achieve, “Day Watch” is for you. Others may wish, after watching it, that they had possession of the Chalk of Fate so that they could write the whole experience of having seen it out of history.