Nightwatch (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Successful directors always generate a slew of copycats and would-bes. There are now so many Tarantino's that Tarantino himself is lost in the shuffle.

David Fincher also has his own following. Fincher, the director of SE7EN, has a special look that can only be described as film grunge, post Angel Heart. Plaster falling off the walls, grimy corners in the rooms, decades-old appliances, shadowy 20-watt lighting, and a general feel that the 1940's still exist in the 1990's, but past the expiration date. Gotham City without the gargoyles and the art deco pizzazz.

Did I mention lots of squeaky old-fashioned ceiling fans casting their ominous shadows in grotesque patterns?

Nightwatch has the same kind of feel. Occasionally, the lighting permits us to see only one person or object in a large dark room. At other times, the old fashioned lights flicker and buzz, like the machinery at Frankenstein Castle during a storm.

Nightwatch also features the new kind of movie killer, not like Richard Widmark who loved to kill and giggled as he pushed the old lady down the staircase, but the kind of killer beyond morals "beyond justifying what he does", tormented by a sense of his doomed nature, giving us an inside look at the nature of evil. In fact, Nolte is so evil he even has an evil barber. Or maybe it's an evil wig maker. Not sure on this point.


Miscellaneous. The opening scene features a women (Anais Evans) whose breasts are seen briefly before she is murdered. In the remainder of the movie, the nudity is restricted to the corpses in the morgue and another dead body. (Some unknown actresses and Alix Koromzay)

As usual, Ewan McGregor flashed his light saber.

In fact, this film isn't supposed to be a derivative of SE7EN, but of an earlier film from the same director. Get this. Director Ole Bornedal made a Danish movie called "Nattevagten" in 1994, and Nightwatch is an English remake of the same story from the same director. It was made about two years later. Surely it must be boring to make the same movie over again so soon?

WARNING: spoilers coming

Nightwatch is almost a scene-by-scene refilming of Nattevagten, and actually has nothing at all to do with SE7EN. After all, Nattevagten was actually made before SE7EN, although Nightwatch came after. Whatever that means. So I don't know if the remake was influenced by SE7EN, but Nightwatch was made not long after Fincher's gloomy noir, and surely seems to be tapping into the same vein. The English version is grungier and more dimly lit. I think you'll really enjoy it if you'd like to see Nick Nolte hump a corpse after covering the dead body with Ewan McGregor's semen.

Say what?

Well, you see, Nolte is both the murderer and the cop investigating the case. Sure, that may seem unlikely to you, but it happens every day in Denmark, didn't you know? In fact, the police captains in Denmark specifically assign guys to investigate their own crimes. It's a measurement of honor to see if they can track themselves down.

The Nickster makes McGregor his fall guy. Acting as investigator, he requests a semen sample from Obi-wan, and then leaves it on his next victim. Those police must have some a lax screening process, because a young Nolte once had the Night Watchman's job in the same morgue, the same job that McGregor has now, and he was fired for slipping the salami into the corpses. This firing is shown in the personnel record which McGregor finds, so it was no secret, but it didn't keep the police force from signing Nick up after he left the morgue job. Oh, well, they probably thought it was just a youthful transgression, like George W Bush's wild youth. I mean, who among us hasn't humped a corpse or two as a wacky college prank? Boys will be boys, after all.

At any rate, the Nickster needs a fall guy, so McGregor is elected.

DVD info from Amazon.

2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen.

No significant features

If you look on the top of the page, you'll think that I mistyped the release date as 1998. That date is correct. The completed film sat on the shelves for two years, seeking the right deal or the right timing, which apparently never arrived. 

And probably never will.

My guess is that they held it back for a while in the hope that one of the stars (most likely Ewan McGregor) would have a mega-hit, and they could ride on those coattails.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: Two stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 2/4, Maltin 2.5/4.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.0.
  • With their dollars ... Not good. It took in only a million dollars, despite being shown on as many as 300 screens. It disappeared within three weeks of its release. The film was held out of distribution for 18 months after its completion, so the producers and distributors obviously had severe doubts about it, which proved to be justified.

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