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Nightwatch (1997, Ewan McGregor, Nick Nolte)

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During a lecture, two ambitious law students challenge each other to set a task the other will find reprehensible. James (Josh Brolin) looks on as Martin (Ewan McGregor) ups the ante by taking a job as a security guard at a local mortuary, convinced it will give him ample time to study.

But the peace and quiet is broken when he has to deal with an intake of dead prostitutes, all victims of a prolific serial killer. The cop in charge, Inspector Cray (Nick Nolte), slowly pieces together the clues and comes up with a chief suspect: Martin. The young man protests his innocence, and Cray is convinced he’s not lying. Martin begins a frantic search for the killer and has no shortage of suspects, including a sinister mortician (Brad Dourif), his duplicitous girlfriend (Patricia Arquette) and even James, whose increasingly bizarre behaviour hints at psychosis…

Following George Sluizer into the territory of remaking a European classic for the American market, Ole Bornedal reworks his Danish smash-hit Nattevagten. Like The Vanishing the end result has inevitable compromises to culture and box office, but unlike Sluizer’s second attempt, it retains the power to disturb.

The pre-Jedi McGregor makes his role more than just a patsy, giving Martin a genuine sense of bewilderment as the bodies amass around him. With Arquette and Nolte underused, the only other developed character is James, whose casual misogyny is unsettling (Brolin would do the same in Best Laid Plans the following year).

production details
US | 102 minutes | 1997

Director: Ole Bornedal
Script: Steven Soderbergh, Ole Bornedal

cast
Ewan McGregor as Martin Bells
Patricia Arquette as Katherine
Nick Nolte as Inspector Thomas Albert Cray
Josh Brolin as James Gallman
Lauren Graham as Marie
Brad Dourif as Duty Doctor
Alix Koromzay as Joyce
Lonny Chapman as Johnson
Robert LaSardo as Pub Thug
John C. Reilly as Bill Davis

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