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Eastern Promises (Widescreen Edition) (2007)

Art House & International and Mystery & Suspense movie directed by David Cronenberg

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"Sometimes birth and death go together"-Eastern Promises

  • May 21, 2008
  • by
Film noir was (and is) one of the most celebrated sub-genres in American film. Thus it's strange to see how few noirs have been made since their golden age in the forties and fifties. There was Polanski's masterful "Chinatown", the handsomely crafted and atmospheric "L.A Confidential", and if you're willing to stretch the idea, Michael Mann's menacing, dreamy "Collateral" felt rather nourish. And now we have David Conenberg's "Eastern Promises"--at its heart merely a well-made crime mystery, taken up a notch by Cronenberg's grisly, brutal direction--a follow-up to his masterful "A History of Violence", to add to that list of modern noir.

Plot-wise, EP has enough twists and turns to keep viewers interested in its dark, seedy tale. Its central mystery revolves around the diary of a 14-year-old Russian girl, discovered by an English midwife Anna (Naomi Watts) after the girl gives birth and subsequently dies. Since the diary is written in Russian, Anna takes it to a Russian restaurant to get translated (after her bitter Uncle at first refuses). It is here she meets Semyon (Armin-Muehl Stahl), a man who speaks so eloquently you know he's rotten to the core.

And he is. In fact, he's the head of an entire crime syndicate; mostly though, we the audience get to know two members of his entourage: son Kirill (Vincent Cassel) and their driver Nikolai (Viggo Mortenson). The performers are all great; Naomi Watts brings some personality to a character who seems to be written with none, Vincent Cassel is memorable, and Stahl's presence radiates with calm power.

Of course, it's Viggo Mortenson's performance everyone is talking about. His presence as a calm, calculated killer is chilling and tense; he's just as great here as his subtle burn in "A History of Violence", his accent unflawed and his rage openly bared. His already infamous fight scene (spectacularly choreographed) is his tour-de-force moment for sure, but it is here where its possible to see what the entire project is: an average thriller made more intense and set apart by Cronenberg's visceral and simply revolting use of violence. Some moments in this film are among the most squeamish you'll ever see, but that's the limit of the film's power.

For whereas "A History of Violence" was relevant, horrifying, masterful, suspenseful and haunting (staying in your mind long after its end; getting under your very nerves even), "Eastern Promises" is merely a passable story served up with the Cronenberg touch. Its ending even felt a little incomplete to me, a few elements unexplained (and not in a good, open-ended way). But against all other contenders out there this season, it's worth a look.

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More Eastern Promises (2007) reviews
Quick Tip by . May 19, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Simply put, this is a fantastic crime-thriller movie.  The best feature of this movie is the characters.  They all feel very realistic and the actions are equally believable.  The acting delivered by Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, and Armin Mueller-Stahl are especially remarkable, though everyone else here did great jobs with their roles, too.  Nothing is sugar-coated and nothing feels forcibly dark, either.      If you want a gripping crime-thriller that paints …
review by . August 09, 2010
Vory v zakone
Vory v zakone - Thieves in law.      This movie left me very pleased, the script is very good, nothing is over explained but every thing connects. There is a constant threat of menace all through the movie and the portrait of the Russian mafia is dark and sinister, not the men to be trifled with, in fact stay away.      So it is no place for a warm hearted midwife looking for the origins of a new born baby. Her investigations take her face to face with the …
review by . September 30, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Vory v zakone - Thieves in law.     This movie left me very pleased, the script is very good, nothing is over explained but every thing connects. There is a constant threat of menace all through the movie and the portrait of the Russian mafia is dark and sinister, not the men to be trifled with, in fact stay away.     So it is no place for a warm hearted midwife looking for the origins of a new born baby. Her investigations take her face to face with the inner …
Quick Tip by . August 21, 2009
Excellently crafted story with a texture to the way it shows characters and the stings of their flaws. Unique and effective. Stays with you.
review by . November 15, 2008
I'm actually not sure how to describe this movie, but I'll give it my best shot. First of all, Viggo Mortensen is outstanding as Nikolai, a driver and enforcer for the Russian Mafia, and full time baby-sitter to Kirill, the wayward son of Mafia boss Semyon. He's one cold, emotionless dude when he has to be, but has a human side that peeps out ever so often from behind that steely, chiseled mug.     Vincent Cassel (Kirill) and Armin Mueller-Stahl (Semyon) are also extremely convincing, …
review by . January 16, 2008
"Eastern Promises"    These Promises Deliver    Amos Lassen    Usually I am not really fond of action movies but "Eastern Promises" really changed my mind about the genre. This movie will take your breath away and make your stomach do flips and then leave you thinking about good and evil. It is super violent with lots of blood--it is brutal and shocking and, above, unforgettable.   Nikolai Luzhin is a driver of one of the largest …
review by . January 06, 2008
Pros: Great story, performances and direction.     Cons: Slow at times; the ending, well sucks.     The Bottom Line: The ending leaves one searching for more.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. The Story      Directed by David Cronenberg (A History of Violence) Eastern Promises is a violence film about violence people in the heart of London. The movie opens with violence as …
review by . January 01, 2008
How sad.     Here we live in the Western world where dreams abound--the immigrant arrives from the home front, running from a situation in which he can no longer abide hoping that with a change in venue super-charged with new opportunities life will proffer that mythical cup of ambrosia. The actuality approaches a bleakness that builds to a wave of silent paranoia. Instead of that cornucopia fraught with starry-eyed promises, he discovers a microcosmic facsimile of the world …
review by . December 29, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
There's a trend these days toward a different kind of gangster adventure. Last year brought the Irish Mafia of Boston in `The Departed,' and this year has brought many other facets. `American Gangster' brought a true tale of Black organized crime, and, now `Eastern Promises' gives us a take on the Russian Mafia in London. Chillingly brutal, David Cronenburg, who also directed Viggo Mortensen in `A History of Violence' in 2005, nearly reinvents violence once again in `Eastern Promises'.     At …
review by . December 25, 2007
EASTERN PROMISES as written by Steven Knight and directed by David Cronenberg is one of the grittiest, insightful, and well-acted films of the year. Maintaining his keen eye for the dark side of life and the people who dwell in its shadows, Cronenberg has once again brought us characters so strongly etched on film that they will be remembered for many years.    The setting is London where lives the enigmatic Russian-born Nikolai Luzhin (Viggo Mortensen in an Oscar caliber performance) …
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David Cronenberg's signature obsessions flower inEastern Promises, a stunning look at violence, responsibility, and skin. Near Christmastime in London, a baby is born to a teenage junkie--an event that leads a midwife (Naomi Watts) into the world of the Russian mob. Central to this world is an ambitious enforcer (Viggo Mortensen) who's lately buddied up with the reckless son (Vincent Cassel) of a mob boss (Armin Mueller-Stahl, doing his benign-sinister thing). Screenwriter Steve Knight also wroteDirty Pretty Things, and in some ways this is a companion piece to that film, though utterly different in style. The plot is classical to the point of being familiar, but Cronenberg doesn't allow anything to become sentimental; he and his peerless cinematographer Peter Suschitzky take a cool, controlled approach to this story. Because of that, when the movie erupts in its (relatively brief) violence, it's genuinely shocking. Cronenberg really puts the viewer through it, as though to shame the easy purveyors of pulp violence--nobody will cheer when the blood runs in this film. Still,Eastern Promiseshas a furtive humor, nicely conveyed in Viggo Mortensen's highly original performance. Covered in tattoos, his body a scroll depicting his personal history of violence, Mortensen conveys a subtle blend of resolve and lost-ness. He's a true, haunting mystery man.--Robert Horton

Stills from Eastern Promises (click for larger image). Photos by Peter Mountain.



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Director: David Cronenberg
Genre: Foreign, Mystery
DVD Release Date: December 23, 2007
Runtime: 101 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios
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