Home Movie Vault Disc Vault Coming Soon Join Our Mailing List Articles About Us Contest Soundtrack Books eStore

  Publicity Stills of "Eastern Promises"
(Courtesy from Shaw)

Genre: Thriller
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Sinead Cusack, Donald Sumpter, Jerzy Skolimowski
RunTime: 1 hr 50 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: M18
(Violence & Nudity)
Official Website: www.focusfeatures.com/easternpromises/

Opening Day: 3 January 2008


Eastern Promises follows the mysterious and ruthless Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen), who is tied to one of London's most notorious organized crime families. His carefully maintained existence is jarred when he crosses paths with Anna (Naomi Watts), an innocent midwife trying to right a wrong, who accidentally uncovers potential evidence again the family. Now Nikolai must put into motion a harrowing chain of murder, deceit, and retribution.

Movie Review:

When Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen) stands bare and initiated in front of an unsavoury conclave of old men, his heavily tattooed physique and scarred form disclose a imperative of duty and an identity given in a city that holds none. The arcane nature of Nikolai’s shadowy being brings about lines of honour and undead servitude, a testimony of corruption through an examination of physical transformations and the concept of the self. The disfigurement of the frame also wretches the spirit as David Cronenberg typically queries the relationship between the body and soul. The question emerges: Who are these men that feed on others? The vampiric cabal feasts on the city’s death and its overwhelming despair, and only those who have truly revoked humanity are inducted into their sphere.

In Cronenberg’s masterful “Eastern Promises”, London is presented as a teeming hive of ethnic and ethical tensions fueled by the cultural isolation of its displaced immigrants. The turmoil beneath its temperate exterior is palpable; a rumple felt only when a corpse is thrown into the Thames as another surfaces, bringing with it a cache of buried secrets. Russian blood is spilt simultaneously, the last of which brings a dead teenage prostitute’s newborn to midwife Anna’s (Naomi Watts) care as an intermittent narration from the dead girl’s diary reveals a quaint concept of sympathy that is only shown to only those that deserve it.

From hamburgers to caviar, Cronenberg crosses the same themes and inquiries that he explored in “A History of Violence”, intriguingly casting the stupendously virile Mortensen and then incisively inflicting the same sorrow on the fractured personalities and tortured moralities of his taciturn characters. Slick and severe with a lurking mood of insinuating hostility behind every corner, the one thing scarier than the presence of evil is the absence of anything at all. The cold void left behind in all-American family man’s Tom Wells as he finally sat down at the dinner table is transported to the grunge of inner city London, where Nikolai waits as a driver (among other things) outside a tranquil Trans-Siberian restaurant, a swanky shroud for its venal cults within. With a wry and cynical sense of humour, Nikolai is deadly aware of the world he operates in and he traverses it with a brutal intelligence. Mortensen’s angular features and sturdy physicality once again serve to accentuate these moral ambiguities and add to the edge of his fascinating character in a completely ravishing performance of technique and control.

Cronenberg retains the clinically intense sensibilities of violence and its acceptance from his previous film and ups the ante here with even more memorable set pieces. Injecting the incongruent melodrama of the screenplay from Steven Knight (writer of another London-based émigré themed, “Dirty Pretty Things”) with fluidity and verve, Cronenberg puts physical vulnerabilities before emotional ones. Even through the flourishes of explicit violence, he maintains an aloof velocity of motion and precision that while rigidly formal in its explosive rage, also surveys its images with ambivalent guile. He takes the mobster genre and removes the romanticism of unspoken brotherhood and strained lines of its cryptic inner world by focusing on its various characters’ seemingly stoic responses to their environment and their own perpetual criminality by constantly stripping away to reveal more instances of truth.

The father-son combo that rounds off Nikolai’s nucleus in the vory v zakone (the Russian mafia) is the uncompromising godfather, Semyon (a strong performance by Armin Mueller-Stahl) who controls his ‘family’ with fear rather than respect, and Semyon’s volatile progeny Kirill (Vincent Cassel). Both prominently entwined in its backstory of modern flesh trafficking together with Watt’s underappreciated tidal waves of guilt and complexities that relate to the newborn and the untranslated document of suffering that binds them together. But Nikolai emerges as Cronenberg’s sincerest preoccupation, a study of a man guarded with surreptitious anguish whose only reprieve from Cronenberg’s contemplation of personal horror is a penultimate shot that is as blistering a shot of familial guardianship as you are likely to find anywhere in his oeuvre.

Movie Rating:

(Cronenberg pushes his themes further with a glorious brutality of flesh and mind)

Review by Justin Deimen


. Munich DVD (2005)

DISCLAIMER: Images, Textual, Copyrights and trademarks for the film and related entertainment properties mentioned
herein are held by their respective owners and are solely for the promotional purposes of said properties.
All other logo and design Copyright©2004- , movieXclusive.com™
All Rights Reserved.