March 2, 2006

My review of "Night Watch" in the upcoming American Conservative

Here's an excerpt:

Russia's triumphant rise from cultural backwater to dazzling center of creativity and profundity during the century before the Bolshevik Revolution was mirrored by its sad decline under Communism. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 might have been expected to unshackle Russian artistry, but over the last decade and a half, little has emerged that has caught the attention of the West.

Still, hope for a Russian aesthetic revival endures, so when the film "Night Watch," the first of a planned trilogy that has set box office records in Russia, finally reached America, the Saturday evening crowd at an art house cinema in West Los Angeles solemnly took it in as if it were the second coming of Crime and Punishment.

In reality, "Night Watch" is a clever and entertaining (if confusing and not at all scary) commercial fantasy film about supernatural undercover cops who arrest vampires. While reminiscent of the great Mikhail Bulgakov's long-banned 1930s novel about the Devil's visit to Stalin's Moscow, The Master and Margarita, it's actually closer to the TV show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and last year's Keanu Reeves theological thriller "Constantine."

"Night Watch" is built on the current Hollywood economic model. It's a special effects-encrusted and lavishly advertised blockbuster that has spawned a franchise. Of course, the financial scale is tiny by comparison: "Night Watch" cost all of $4 million to make and reaped $16 million at the Russian box office. Fortunately, a dollar goes a lot farther in Russia, and "Night Watch" looks terrific. The computer-generated imagery is professional, and Moscow's grubbiness has never been depicted so slickly. While "Night Watch" is a pastiche of American hits, there's a distinct Russian flavor and a crucial anti-abortion plot twist that Hollywood wouldn't touch.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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