Nightwatch (1997)–movie review

Nightwatch poster

Director:   Ole Bornedal

Starring:  Ewan McGregor, Nick Nolte, Patricia Arquette, Josh Brolin, Lauren Graham, Brad Dourif, Alix Koromzay, Lonny Chapman


Here’s a quick review on a surprisingly little known thriller.

Nightwatch is a movie that popped up time and again for me during the occasional free HBO weekend.  The problem is that, like many underappreciated greats before and after it, it usually started at about 1 A.M. after I was already half dozen scotches into the evening, so if I watched all of it in one setting, I certainly don’t remember it.

Thankfully that all changed when I noticed it was available to stream on Netflix.  This time around I traded the scotch for a much gentler Mexican beer and settled down to finally give this flick the attention it deserved—start to finish.

I’m glad I did.

A mediocre plot is enhanced exponentially by, in my opinion, some fabulous acting by an all-star cast, headlined by a pre-nervous breakdown-mugshot-posing Nick Nolte and pre-Obi Wan Ewan McGregor.  McGregor is fantastic, and combined with the insane talent of Josh Brolin (whose only other performance I’d seen up to the making of this film was Goonies) makes for a delightfully douchey duo that you can’t help but to love and hate.  Brolin was nothing short of amazing in this project.  Add in a very creepy performance by Nolte as the lead murder investigator and supporting roles by some strong talents such as Patricia Arquette, Brad Dourif (whom I adore), and John C. Reilly (who might have had 6 actual lines in the whole film) and you’ve got the recipe for an hour and forty minutes of solid entertainment.

Nightwatch is about a chain-smoking Law student (McGregor) who takes a job as a night watchman at the local morgue.  It just so happens there’s a serial killer on the loose and this particular morgue houses the victims.  McGregor’s character is soon implicated in the murders but he has his own suspicions.  The film then takes a familiar, yet still entertaining, approach in which we constantly attempt to surmise for ourselves who the killer actually is.  Nightwatch switches gears on a dime, from fun, montage-like scenes one second to truly nail biting scenes, overflowing with suspense with zero warning.  The film retains a fairly dark, yet strangely amusing tone throughout.  There’s not an abundance of gore, as most of the murder victims are usually only seen as cadavers, and not actually being dispatched.  However, there is one rather nerve wracking scene in which a character (I won’t tell you which) cuts their own thumb off to escape a pair of handcuffs.

Nolte and McGregor“Wait, YOU’RE gonna play Obi Wan Kenobi?  How old are you, like twelve?!?”


I’ll admit that the ending of the film fell a little short in my opinion, but again, the ride is well worth the price of admission.  This film was a remake of a previously done European project (also directed by Bornedal) and often remakes like this fall short.  This film is certainly an exception, and very underrated.

Do yourself a favor—watch this one.

–Tyson  tyson headshot


The Verdict:


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What little known gems have you seen recently?



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