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Nightwatch (1997)

Let me preface this post by stating this Giallo like thriller has nothing to do with the Liz Taylor Hammer styled flick, Night Watch and also point out that this Ole Bornedal film is actually a remake of his own 1994 foreign film release, Nattevagten or Nightwatch if you prefer. Never claiming to be a know it all, though I do try when it comes to movies and have been accused of it in my inner circle of friends, I actually had no idea this was a remade version for the North American crowd and those that happen to be fans of Nick Nolte.

If you had to come up with a good setting as a backdrop to a thriller that features a serial killer, how about the county morgue? That’s exactly where a young student played by Ewan McGregor finds himself employed as a night shift security guard to earn some extra dollars through his school year.

“It’s just you and them.” the creepy retiring night watchman tells McGregor as he shows him the ropes and the many corpses in the cooler covered in the customary white shroud, toes exposed at the end of the gurney. Before leaving the youngster on his own, the old timer speaks of the urban legend surrounding the night watchman from before his time who did “things” with the corpses. Necrophilia is a haunting presence throughout this dark tale.

Nick Nolte is starring as a detective trying to catch a killer who murders young women and removes their eyes. He’s a bit of a celebrity through his constant interviews with the media and claims he’s getting close to catching the killer. Also starring here is Josh Brolin as McGregor’s trouble making friend who has his own sexual hang ups and frequents prostitutes, fistfights and any other way he can get his own kicks by disturbing those around him. McGregor’s love interest is Patricia Arquette who is going to be drawn into the maze of twists that our killer will unleash upon Ewan. Or maybe the ones that Ewan unleashes upon himself.

Keep guessing as there are plenty of red herrings coming at you in full force. Oh, and isn’t that Brad Dourif as a deranged Doctor hanging around the morgue at all hours of the night? Dourif could be considered a poster boy for a serial killer role.

“Nothing cures a fantasy like a quick dose of reality.” states Nick showing McGregor around the autopsy tables and keeping his eye on the youngster as the clues are being set up to point in the direction of the new night watchman. When a prostitute that Brolin has sent to mess with McGregor on a dare begins to harass Ewan with calls to Arquette and knowing more than she should about the crimes that Nolte has told Ewan off the record, he begins to suspect all those around him.

I liked this thriller with just enough blood letting and sadistic ideas being intimated to keep one on edge. The dark hallways of the county morgue and all the rooms within it add to the overall atmosphere as does the final reel when all is unveiled as our killer just might have outwitted himself.

Good cast and a solid handle on the directing chores from Bornedal. Now of course I’m curious about the original foreign language version. Anyone seen it? Care to comment if you’ve compared the two? Remakes of foreign films are far from unique but I’m not so sure if the same director is incorporated all that often. Off the top, I know Gerard Depardieu played two film versions of My Father the Hero within a three year span but for different directors. Once in French, the next in English. I’m sure there are more examples than I can even begin to think up. Insomnia came to mind but proved a different director and cast after checking. I should have known it was Nolan who did the English version 5 years after the original. Horror films as well seemed to be in vogue recently with Japanese titles finding their way to North American versions.

 

Nice late night claustrophobic thriller to set aside for yourself and you’ve got to dig that hair style Nick Nolte is sporting. For a minute I thought it might have been Peter Cushing’s wig from Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell. And one more thing, that is indeed an unbilled John C. Reilly getting a fair bit of screen time towards the end of the film as Nolte’s partner.

So one more time, anyone seen the original version of this?

 

7 Comments »

  1. I’ve seen both Nightwatch and its Danish original, Nattevagten (1994), although some years apart (the English-language version first) so it was hard for me to directly compare them, although I do recall finding it a bit easier to suspend my disbelief for the original . . . even though, on the face of things (the original’s a lot more out-of-the-park!), it should have been the other way round.

    Remakes of foreign films are far from unique but I’m not so sure if the same director is incorporated all that often.

    George Sluizer made both the excellent Spoorloos (1988; Netherlands/France) and its vastly inferior Hollywood regurgitation, The Vanishing (1993). That’s the only example I can immediately think of.

    • Someone else on facebook has told me they prefer the English version as they found the other one injected too much humor into the story. While I’ve seen The Vanishing, I’m not sure I was aware it was the same director as the original or perhaps I did at the time but have forgotten. Either way, I kind of liked this one.

      • I think some people tend to lean toward the foreign versions of movies and others toward the Hollywood ones — i.e., that it’s as much as anything else a matter of which cinematic “language”/set of conventions one prefers. I know that myself I’ll generally prefer the furrin version (and with subtitles!) — either because I’m a pretentious git or because I find the cultural difference part of the enjoyment.

  2. I promise you Mike that someday, I’ll have seen a movie you reviewed! But I can say that I was interested enough in this one at one time that I wanted to rent it, but I never was able to find it! And here’s something kinda funny: when I first saw the title of your post, I thought, cool, I’ve seen this one! Unfortunately, I was thinking ‘Nightwing’, the killer bat movie, and not ‘Nightwatch’! So…is ‘Nightwing’ part of your collection?

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