Russia's mega-hit horror-fantasy Night Watch had its literal-nightmare qualities, as vampires, witches, and various such power-wielding good and evil "Others" faced off against each other. But the sequel, Day Watch—the second in a trilogy set to end with Dusk Watch—feels even more like something coughed out raw and rough-edged from the depths of someone's subconscious. As if in a particularly confusing dream, characters abruptly appear and disappear from the narrative. They seek an all-powerful mystical artifact, but once they find it, they lose interest in it. People swap bodies, change shapes, and switch sides for tossed-off reasons. The series' theme might be that the center cannot hold, but the idea gets played out too literally, as Day Watch can barely keep an idea on the screen for a few minutes before whipping off in a new direction.
The film opens with a brief summary of Night Watch and its background: Long ago, the warring Dark and Light Others agreed to a truce, which both sides police equally. Forcing each other to toe the line, they all growl threateningly across it. But now each side has a Great Other, an exceptionally powerful supernatural being that they think might roll the tide in their direction. To that end, Dark leader Viktor Verzhbitsky tries various ploys to bait the Light Others into a conflict, including framing sad-sack truce enforcer Konstantin Khabensky for murder. Meanwhile, Khabensky is seeking the mythical Chalk Of Fate, hoping to rewrite the mess he's made of his life. Khabensky's trainee Mariya Poroshina is overextending herself as the Light Great Other, Khabensky's son Dima Martynov is descending further into evil as the Dark Great Other, and a ton of other wacky stuff is happening, all at breakneck speed with a lot of neuron-cauterizing loud-and-fast editing, music, and special effects.
It's all meant to be cutting-edge, trippy, and fiercely exciting—even the subtitles forcefully underline every point, by bouncing in place or bleeding off the screen for impact. But as with similar films, like the Underworld movies and the Matrix sequels, Day Watch is all charging incident and no depth, no matter how much the characters natter on about their angst or their love between battles. Like the dream it so closely resembles, it's fairly distracting while it's going on, but it fades into forgettable nonsense by the light of day.