Monday, January 07, 2008

How could we know that promises end

David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises had good critical buzz, but not too many people saw it. I thought it was an excellent small picture, lasting just long enough to tell a good story, deliver some shocks and give us a peek at the Russian mob. Viggo Mortensen plays a Russian chauffeur for Vincent Cassel, the drunken heir apparent to a London branch of the mob. Naomi Watts is a midwife who delivers a baby to a dying teenage girl who leaves behind a diary. When she reads the diary, she gets noticed by the nasties.

It being a Cronenberg film, there is some grotesque violence, starting with a brutal murder in the first few moments. The importance of that killing is not apparent until later, but it ties into one of the most excruciating fight scenes ever filmed. The participants truly suffer in this one and it will have you wincing. The ladies will want to keep their eyes open as Viggo plays this scene buck naked.

Aside from these two, the tone is less about violence than it is about menace. Watts's character learns a bit too late that she should be careful about how she investigates the girls past. The godfather of the family is particularly threatening and his scenes with Watts are decidedly creepy.

While it sounds like yet another crime picture, the acting, the direction and the Russian elements add up to a much more interesting story. The plot is also surprising as the interplay between the girl, the mob family and Viggo doesn't play out as one might expect. And to put the icing on the cake, there is no wasted screen time. Keep Cronenberg working and watch this one on DVD.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review--I must see this. I thought "A History of Violence" was one of the best and most thoughtful movies I saw in the last decade. Although I will never look at William Hurt again without shivering slightly.

Tripp said...

If you are a fan of History of Violence I suspect you will quite like this one. I thought H of V was fabulous as well, and I will say that I think Eastern Promises is slightly better, if only because it is so well constructed.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, slightly better. It's still in our "cheap seat" theater here so maybe I'll drag the mister out to see it before it's gone. Thanks!