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Long Day's Journey 

The follow-up to cult fave Night Watch is just another drawn-out sequel.

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Night Watch, you may recall, told of an ancient feud waged between the forces of Light and Dark. As Russian supercombatants are wont to do, they organized themselves into complex bureaucracies, with the Night Watch heroes monitoring the vampiric shenanigans of the Day Watch set and vice versa. Inevitably, shit happened -- mostly in a secret dimension of the universe known as the Gloom, an arena of computer-generated ass-whooping.

The hero of Night Watch, Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabensky), found himself tangled in the fates of two über-Watchfolk called the Great Others. Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina) emerged to support the Night Watch, while Anton's son Egor (Dima Martynov) matured into a terrible ally of the Day Watch. Everyone ran around willy-nilly, things exploded, etc. Based on a trilogy of Russian best-sellers (Day Watch is here, Dusk Watch on its way), the film was a huge hit in Russia. Tricked out with digitally enhanced extreme subtitles, it went on to make a decent chunk of change in the States as an art-house/fanboy crossover.

Day Watch dawns with a refresher course in the backstory, then dives into the provenance of the Chalk of Fate. This hilariously lo-fi magic implement will be sought after by Anton to thwart the diabolical schemes of Zavulon (Victor Verzhbitsky), a nefariously nouveau-riche Day Watcher. Hell-bent on abolishing the truce, Zavulon masterminds a standoff between the Great Others with the help of the Sorceress Olga (Galina Tyunina), a vixen in cherry-red leather with a penchant for gunning her sports car across the facades of skyscrapers.

Rad, no? Actually, no. Not nearly enough shit gets blown up in Day Watch. Bekmambetov lovingly crafts a world you want to see morph, spin, and shatter to bits, but he obliges only grudgingly, instead throwing a bear hug around the inconsequential psychodramas of his characters. He invests in their two-dimensional conflicts at the expense of three-dimensional marvel.

Day Watch may be most "Russian" in its heavy emphasis on interpersonal conflict, but its people are a bore. Anton's anguish over his son's fate is more synthetic than the special effects. And Poroshina's Svetlana barely registers a pulse. The most compelling thing about this Great One is her magnificently tacky fashion sense.

The worst thing Bekmambetov has picked up from his American models is the tendency of mega-sequels to compensate for thinness by spreading out. His story sporadically jerks to life, then settles back into the maudlin, distracted, or merely vacant. For an hour or so there's excitement in these spasmodic rhythms, the weird rush of something unpredictably unhinged. By Day's wearying end -- not so much.

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More by Nathan Lee

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