Nightwatch [1997]

Ole Bornedal's thriller about a young law student who takes a job as a night watchman in a creepy morgue is long on style but comes up a little short on quality of storytelling. Bornedal sets things up in high style as Martin Bells (Ewan McGregor doing an American accent) makes his rounds in the middle of the night, with only corpses and his own paranoia for company. When bodies start coming in, the prostitute victims of a grisly serial killer, the imposing detective on the case (a hulking Nick Nolte) begins to suspect that Bells is the killer, as all clues start pointing to him. Coscripted by Steven Soderbergh (Out of Sight) and adapted from Bornedal's 1994 Danish thriller, Nightwatch forsakes out-and-out thrills for a more moody approach with flickering lights, menacing shadows, and echoing footsteps down long hallways. If only there were a little more energy before the highly effective denouement, which does get scares, even after the killer is revealed. Still, McGregor is supported by a stronger than average cast: in addition to Nolte, Josh Brolin does an amusing turn as McGregor's out-of-control best friend, Patricia Arquette fares well in the standard girlfriend role, and the always creepy Brad Dourif makes the most of a sinister and funny bit part as the on-call doctor. You won't jump out of your seat, but by the end of Nightwatch you will find yourself remarkably tense. --Mark Englehart

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