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Anchor Bay presents
"If you don't do it, you'll be haunted by fantasies."
DVD ReviewWhen law student Martin Bork (Nikolaj Waldau) takes the night watchman job at a hospital morgue, he finds himself drawn into an ongoing criminal investigation headed by detective Peter Wormer (Ulf Pilgaard). Mysterious goings-on after hours drive Martin to question his own sanity, and evidence points to Martin as the culprit in a bizarre series of prostitute murders. When Martin's young acquaintance Joyce (Rikke Louise Andersson) is murdered, even his girlfriend Kalinka (Sofie Graaboel) and friends Jens and Lotte (Kim Bodnia, Lotte Andersen) begin to wonder about his professed innocence.
Director Ole Bornedal remade this 1994 film in 1998, with Ewen McGregor in the Nikolaj Waldau role; the effort garnered mediocre box office and soon sank beneath the waves of audience indifference. Looking at the original movie, it's clear why the Hollywood version was financedóBornedal's vision is kinetic and creepy, violent and bizarre without being completely dark. The plot is generic thriller materialóan innocent man versus an unknown psychotic killeróbut significant screen time is also devoted to Martin's relationships outside of his after-hours job. His girlfriend Kalinka is genuinely in love with Martin, giving us a reason to care what happens to him. His wild friend Jens is a bit unbalanced but not really evil, and the teen-aged hooker Joyce elicits tremendous empathy as her life spirals downward in a haze of drugs and commercialized sex. The film opens with a scene of the four friends at dinner, and the tension of the main plot is continually relieved and enriched by the attention paid to Martin's life at large. As the third act combines the two story threads, the stakes are much higher than they would be if we hadn't come to know and care about Martin and his friends.
Nightwatch delivers in the horror department as well, with frequent gore, necrophilia and corpse imagery used to shocking effect. Bornedal brings a fine sense of black humor to some of this stuffóMartin hears staff stories of an ex-employee who maintained a "harem" of corpses, encounters a night-staff doctor who is "a little too liberal with his own medicine," and makes hourly rounds seemingly engineered to unnerve him as much as possible. The cast of talented Danish actors (largely unknown in the United States) plays the story straight, maximizing the intended humor without undermining the script's more serious elements.
It's not a perfect movieóBornedal sometimes succeeds too well in aping the Hollywood thriller, with clichÈ scares and predictable plot twists that seem out of place in an otherwise inventive and original production. But Nightwatch does so many other things right that it's well worth seeing, with interesting, credible characters that make its gruesome events all the more horrifying.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay's DVD features a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer, presenting the film in its original widescreen theatrical aspect ratio courtesy of the folks at Crest National. Detail is crisp and solid, especially impressive in challenging darker scenes, and the dual-layer transfer benefits from naturalistic color (no oversaturated reds here) and minimal edge enhancement. A few shots exhibit slight grain, but this low-budget Danish thriller is given an excellent transfer here.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Nightwatch features its original Dolby 2.0 Surround theatrical audio track, as well as an electronically engineered Dolby Digital 5.1 remix produced at Chace Digital. Both mixes are similar, though the 5.1 version features slightly better imaging while respecting the character of the original mix. The soundfield is generally front-oriented, with most dialogue and effects centered, minimal bass and surround usage, and stereo support for the film's incongruous but very effective pop music soundtrack. Dialogue is clear, no unintentional noises intrude on the soundtrack, and I can't imagine this film sounding any better than it does here.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Ole Bornedal
Layers Switch: 01h:01m:54s
Extras Review: Anchor Bay's Nightwatch DVD features 26 text-menu chapter stops, optional English subtitles (default: On), and a few standard but well-executed extras. The film's theatrical trailer is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic and Danish 2.0 Surround, subtitled in English and looking just as good as the feature, and director Ole Bornedal contributes an interesting running commentary. He's surprisingly soft-spoken, and his wide-ranging commentary (in English) addresses the film's philosophy, technical production issues, and its structure and tone. Even the digital soundtrack labeling is correct (DAN), a common oversight when foreign-language films are released on Region 1 DVD.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsNightwatch (Nattevagten) is a sharp little Danish thriller that leavens its standard-issue plot with credible human relationships. Anchor Bay's DVD features a fine transfer and an interesting commentary track. Worth checking out, even if you've seen the unsuccessful 1998 remake.
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