The forces of darkness and light have engaged in an uneasy truce for ages now, but many recall the tale of the hero Tamerlane centuries back who broke into a sacred city in Central Asia in search of the reality-altering Chalk of Fate using all the power at his command. Once he navigated the maze that was the city's walls by working out its weak spot and crashing on through, he ended up at a chamber where the Chalk was kept, but in his distraction was run through with a sword. However, he was given a second chance and avoided death this time, and seized the artefact into the bargain. Now, in modern Moscow, that Chalk will be at the centre of a conspiracy to end the truce...
What has all that got to do with the rest of Day Watch? Come to think of it, what has it to do with the first film in the series? It probably helps to have read the books, but for us who have failed to dip a toe in those waters, this film, known originally as Dnevnoy Dozor, can be daunting but the best advice to tackle it is not to get bogged down in the details, but simply go with the flow instead. Scripted by its director, Timur Bekmambetov, from the novel of the same name, the film doesn't pussyfoot around with explanations or precis of what has gone before, it dives straight in.
In many ways, this is as good a sequel to the initial instalment as it could have been as it works up the same dreamlike, indeed nightmarish sense of delirium and plonks its hero, the semi-supernaturally powered Anton (Konstantin Khabensky), right in the middle of it leaving him to solve the mountain of problems surrounding him. We first see him in one of the Night Watch vans, along with Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina), a student of the Light Arts (as opposed to the Dark ones) on assignment with him. Not only does she secretly love him, but she could be the key to saving the world against the forces intent on ruination.
Svetlana gets a quick course in dealing with the baddies when the two of them encounter a vampire who preys on little old ladies and she uses hitherto unrealised depths of power to try and catch him, in spite of Anton's protests. The vicious villain turns out to be Anton's son Yegor (Dmitry Martinov), but his estranged father isn't aware of that immediately. Yegor is part of the masterplan to end the truce, along with the Machiavellian Zavulon (Viktor Verzhbitsky), and once you have that straight in your mind the weirdness can really begin, with Anton framed for a murder that will divide the Light and Dark, and having to indulge in such business as swapping bodies with a woman to keep from being arrested.
As with Night Watch, Bekmambetov makes great use of modern Russia, specifically modern Moscow, to build up his landscape of the fantastical. The architecture especially is well utilised, with for example a hotel used as a racetrack by one character in her sports car, both the inside and the outside, or Anton escaping a rampaging horde by leaping onto the subway - and into a train. There are also references to pop culture, with Anton smashing through a poster advertising 9th Company (the previous Russian box office champ until this little lot came along). It all combines in a spectacular finale where the city is laid waste by a load of balls, Yegor gets a birthday party that turns apocalyptic, and the much-put-upon Anton is poisoned and nearly cut in two. What's nice about these first two films is that they couldn't have been made anywhere else; that and the fact that they are proudly inventive, if not coherent. Music by Yuri Poteyenko.