Director David Cronenberg
basically resurrected his career with last year's collaboration with Viggo
Mortensen in the acclaimed A History of Violence.
Mortensen is along for the
ride again for the follow-up, and while the Russian mafia melodrama
Eastern Promises is not up to the standard of their last team-up, it
still is a crisp and tense thriller.
takes a look at the complicated and violent lives of gangsters in a Russian
section of London.
Naomi Watts plays Anna, a
midwife of mixed descent (half-Russian, half-English) who gets dragged into
the underworld when she treats a 14-year-old pregnant immigrant who is
attacked right before she is to give birth. When the girl dies but the
baby survives, she only has the girl's diary – in Russian – to find out
who she is and if she has family who can take care of the baby.
She finds a business card
to a restaurant and supper club in the diary. When she goes there,
trying to find if anyone knew the girl or if they could translate her diary
for a name or address, she stumbles into a viper's nest of drugs,
trafficking, prostitution and murder.
Only two people seem to be
willing to help her. One is the friendly-but-suspicious restaurateur
(Armin Mueller-Stahl) who runs the place. The other is a new limo
driver (Mortensen) who is quickly making his way up the ranks of the
The film is in general
rather interesting, though it does have a tendency to flip back and forth
between segments which border on dull followed by graphic violence.
One warning, though.
The movie relies on a plot twist, one which does not play out until about
3/4 of the way through the film and one that I will not disclose for sake of
not ruining a surprise. However this twist was not a revelation to me
because it was matter-of-factly exposed in almost everything I have
previously read about the film. In fact, I was surprised when this
fact was not made clear right away because I had assumed it was a
fundamental fact of the story. Then I spent much of the film wondering
if the writers could have gotten something so basic wrong. It turned
out they hadn't – but this prior knowledge ruined the film's biggest shock.
If you have read anything else about the movie, you will probably quickly
notice this as well – so if you haven't, wait until you see the film before
reading further stories on it.
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Posted: January 3, 2008.