I just watched the recent Russian vampire film Guardians of the Night, directed by Emilis Velyvis. I believe this must be one of the most generic films I have encountered in a long time. It is a mish-mash of Men in Black, Blade, and Bekmambetov’s Night Watch/Day Watch. Every character, every single plot-devise, every step of the narrative, all is so generic that “by-the-numbers” is almost too weak a phrase to describe it.
Pasha is a young slacker who lives with his mother. By day he works a dead-end job as a delivery man, while his nights are filled with recurring nightmares. One day, however, he believes to recognise a missing person and tries to find out more. Sticking his nose in affairs that are not his brings a lot of new excitement into his life, as well as lots of bruises. A completely different world is revealed to him, a world normally hidden from humans. And with a crisis looming, he has to decide if he is ready to step up his game.
That hidden world is comprised of a variety of creatures, including ghouls. Ghouls, we are told, are not vampires. But the ghouls in this Russian film look like vampires, behave like vampires, and have all the strengths and weaknesses of vampires…
As I said, Guardians of the Night (Hau Due Ma Ca Rong) draws its inspirations from many different sources. However, it does not live up to any of them. It does not have even a fraction of the entertainment value of Men in Black, is not even half as slick and good-looking as Blade, and cannot compete with Bekmambetov’s work when it comes to daring action sequences and sheer inventiveness (for better or worse).
It is by far more realistic than the HQ in Men in Black or similar Hollywood films
The action sci-fi film (phim hanh dong vien tuong) has its strong points. The world-building works, and the sets look really good. But being generic in style, the sets are consequently rather soul-less compared to the work Valeriy Viktorov did for Bekmambetov. Again, the film fails to deliver either one thing or the other. It does not develop its own stylistic language, as Bekmambetov’s films had done, but it does not have the budget to compete with Men in Black, which is what the film’s central set, a command centre, is trying to do. Don’t get me wrong; that set does look good, and as far as work-environments go.
It is by far more realistic than the HQ in Men in Black or similar Hollywood films. But if you have a rather pedestrian set, you should no play it for a big reveal. And this is what the filmmakers are doing here. When Pasha first sees this set, his face betrays awe, the camera goes to an extremely wide (revealing) shot, and the score music swells up to tell us that this is an awe-inspiring moment. Only it isn’t. Nothing we see on screen at that moment inspires awe. As I said, the set looks really good for its purpose; but the film ruins it by trying to pretend the set is something it is not.