Detonator II: Night Watch (1995)

AKA: Night Watch, Alistair MacLean’s Night Watch
Directed by David S. Jackson
Pierce Brosnan, Alexandra Paul, William Devane
Music by John Scott

Night Watch is director David S. Jackson’s follow up to Detonator: Death Train. Once again it is based on an Alistair MacNeill novel, from outlines left by Alistair MacLean at his death. While the team from the first film is back, Pierce Brosnan returns as Mike Graham, and Alexandra Paul reprises her role as Sabrina Carver, many of the better elements of the first movie have disappeared.

• Firstly, Patrick Stewart has gone as head of United Nations Anti-Crime Organization (UNACO) and is replaced by William Devane.

• Next, ‘UNACO’ the organisation Graham and Carver work for is hardly mentioned at all. In fact it only appears written on the side of a 4WD that drops Graham off at headquarters. In contrast there are quite a few mentions of the CIA, Graham and Carver are even partnered by the CIA’s agent in Hong Kong. It would appear that ‘UNACO’ is a part of the CIA, not a global agency sanctioned by the United Nations.

• And finally there is Brosnan’s appearance. Maybe all the rumours and comparisons with James Bond had taken their toll on Brosnan. In the first film, Death Train, Graham was clean cut with short hair. In this sequel, Brosnan has gone for the Mexican bandit look. His hair is long and unkempt, and he has grown a Zapata moustache. This change of appearance serves no purpose, and as far as continuity between the two pictures is concerned…well, it’s like Darth Vader in a red suit. Sure the character is the same, but somehow it just doesn’t seem right.

So, despite the same team in front and behind the camera, this film is a very different bird to it’s predecessor.

The film opens with a violent beach rescue. Brosnan’s partner is shot and dies in a sea of blood. This is so badly staged it almost seems humorous. But the mission has taken it’s toll on Graham. So he is given a ‘cushy’ mission. Something that should be a walk in the park. It appears that Rembrandt’s painting, the ‘Night Watch’ which had been touring all around the world, has returned home as a fake. Somewhere along the way, the original must have been exchanged for this elaborate forgery.

Graham and Carver are teamed up once again and shipped off to Holland to discover how the painting was switched, and more importantly, where the original is?
In Amsterdam, it doesn’t take long for Graham to get into a fight with a muscle bound hoodlum on a boat. Unfortunately for Graham, he doesn’t have a search warrant and it’s the hood who presses charges. Meanwhile Carver is engaged in another of the film’s many silly action set pieces. In this one, agent Carver cycles (as in bicycle) after a boat travelling down one of Amsterdam’s canals. She overtakes it and races forward to the next bridge, where he dismounts and then leaps onto the boat as it passes under the bridge. As you can imagine, this boat is not powering along. After a fight on board, the boat collides with another boat. This second boat is carrying a drum of petrol. As the boats touch, both vessels explode in giant orange balls of flame. Sure the collision may have resulted in an explosion, but this was totally out of proportion to the lead up. This was a slow moving boat – not a speedboat moving at pace. And don’t worry about Agent Carver – she slipped over the side into the water, just before the explosion.

The trail then leads to Hong Kong. In every city that exhibited the Night Watch painting, the museum that showed the piece, footed the bill. Not Hong Kong. There a wealthy art connoisseur, Martin Schraeder (Michael Shannon) picked up the tab. Posing as newly weds, Graham and Carver move their investigation to Hong Kong, where they team up with CIA Agent Myra Tang (Irene Ng).

As Schraeder is the logical suspect, Graham and Co. focus their attention on him. This leads them to a Casino in Macao, which Schraeder owns. In a casino setting, the film moves into Bond wannabe territory. Naturally there is a high stakes card game, where Graham faces off against Schraeder. And added to this, Graham choice of drink is a ‘vodka martini, straight up with a twist’. Hardly shaken not stirred, but close enough to seem familiar. Of course, Schraeder is the bad guy, and this is where the usual espionage hi-jinks begin.

Towards the end, this production reaches new depths in low budget Bondian action. Graham has to stop a North Korean freighter from launching a rocket in the middle of Hong Kong Harbour. As with all the action scenes in this movie, it is sloppy and far-fetched. Detonator II: Night Watch is a very poor film. Even die hard Brosnan fans will find this tough going. Bottom of the barrel.

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