Film: Eastern Promises

Posted on November 17, 2010


Eastern Promises
Directed by David Cronenberg (2007)
jusco’s Rating: ★★★★1/2

Eastern Promises is a solid, electrifying thriller from David Cronenberg, also known for his critically acclaimed A History of Violence. What he has brought to the table is an intense, gritty look into the inhumane nature of people, in this case, the Russian Mafia in London. Revolving around a midwife named Anna (Naomi Watts) who stumbles upon a dead teenage girl’s diary containing secrets potentially harmful to a Russian Mafia family, her interactions begin to involve the family’s driver, Nikolai (Viggo Mortenson), who is anxious to be accepted by his employers as a fellow member. An unusual relationship develops between the two, shaking both lives as they find themselves caught in a web of murder and deception.

(Naomi Watts as ‘Anna’ and Viggo Mortenson as ‘Nikolai’)

From the start, you’ll be made aware that this is not your nice, sit-back-and-relax thriller (too many of those around; aren’t thrillers meant to thrill?). A throat-slashing murder opens the film, just the beginning of plenty more shocking events to follow. There is no mercy in this crime world, just pure ruthlessness found directed at the one who dares to step out of line.
(A word of advice: Don’t mess with him)

What better man to play a formidable Russian than Viggo Mortenson himself, whose fierce figure and face, that seems to represent the very nature of evil, incites dreadful shivers through your entire being? This is perfect casting; his deliverance and execution is top class. And Naomi Watts is brilliant in her role as the headstrong heroine who seeks to make a change despite the imminent dangers.
(Tattoos carry heavy significance to gangsters for they tell their life story: for more information, visit here)

There is not much action in this film. In fact, there are no guns. But, there are knives. And lots of tattoos. And an epic fight scene in a bathhouse that just blows your mind because it is so realistically frightening. At just 100 minutes, it is neither too short nor too long, it’s pacing well timed to slowly reveal atrocious secrets and stir up the anxiety and excitement in the audience. Howard Shore’s restrained score just adds to the mix, creating a heightened sense of tension. Though many might find David Cronenberg’s realistic portrayal of the Russian Mafia too grotesque to handle, those who are able to sit through it will find themselves in for a delightfully thrilling ride.

I forgot to mention: if you do not wish to see Viggo Mortenson’s genitals, do NOT watch this. They get more screen time than you might expect.

Posted in: 4.5-stars, film