US Release Date: 04-17-1998
Directed by: Ole Bornedal
- Ewan McGregor, as
- Martin Bells
- Patricia Arquette, as
- Josh Brolin, as
- James Gallman
- Lauren Graham, as
- Nick Nolte, as
- Inspector Thomas Cray
- John C. Reilly, as
- Deputy Inspector Bill Davis
- Brad Dourif, as
- Duty Doctor
- Alix Koromzay, as
- Lonny Chapman as
Ewan McGregor in Nightwatch
Nightwatch was Ewan MaGregor’s first American film. He had already gained attention for the Danny Boyle directed, Trainspotting, but this was his first stateside made film.
He plays a law student, Martin, who gets a job as a security guard job at a Medical Examiner’s office, which contains a morgue. He thinks the job will be a piece of cake, “Don't you see it, that's all I've gotta do. Just sit on my ass. Sit. On. My. Ass.” Other than periodically walking about the building, he figures to use his time to study.
Meanwhile, a serial killer, who leaves his victims without their eyes, is on the lose. One of his victims arrives at the mortuary during Martin’s shift. Delivering the body is Inspector Cray, played by Nolte, who has not had hair this bad since his mug shot, and his deputy Reilly.
In his personal life, Martin lives with his girlfriend and they hangout with their friends James and Marie, who are not getting along. James is a seize the moment kind of guy. Brolin was years away from wowing audiences in No Country for Old Men. At this point in his career he was still known as the older brother from Goonies, and television’s Young Riders. Chapman, who plays the old guard Martin is replacing, is a veteran working actor whose career goes all the way back to a bit role in East of Eden (1955).
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when James hires a prostitute to give Martin a handjob under the table at a fancy restaurant. After the “job” is done, James puts the whore on the spot by asking her business questions, and offering to pay her if she can convincingly tell him that she loves him. The victim in the morgue turns out to have been a friend of the prostitutes. The inspector now suspects Martin, while Martin starts to suspect James.
The mystery of who is the killer is not all that interesting, or shocking. The most unique aspect to Nightwatch is the morgue setting. McGregor really sells the scenes where he has to walk by the bodies. You can feel how scared Martin is of the corpses by McGregor’s reaction to being near them.
Once the killer is revealed and the action starts, the movie loses it’s momentum. It has a macabre set up but a cheesy follow through. An old black and white photo on a wall is referred to many times but never plays into the plot. In another scene, a man is facing off with the killer while holding a baseball bat. The scenes cuts away and when it comes back the guy is now tied up on a table?
Fortunately for McGregor, he reteamed with Boyle for the far superior, A Life Less Ordinary the same year as this film. He would also soon begin work on Star Wars: Episode I, propelling him to the “A” list, leaving the “B” movie Nightwatch in film obscurity.
Photos © Copyright Dimension Films (1998)