Author Topic: Eastern Promises  (Read 1809 times)

Najemikon

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Eastern Promises
« on: June 25, 2008, 01:33:08 AM »
Eastern Promises
3 out of 5


David Cronenberg used to be a bit too surreal for my tastes, but then he teamed up with Viggo Mortensen and adapted John Wagner's graphic novel, A History of Violence. It was quite brilliant. The story suited Cronenberg's regular plot themes of family, as well as his visceral style that make all his movies so memorable. The result was as sharp as it was grimy. And so I've been looking forward to Eastern Promises for a very long time. It's wrong to expect Another History of Violence, but still, this was a crashing disappointment.

The story concerns the Russian Mafia in London and their sex trafficking activities resulting in an raped girl dying as she gives birth. A nurse (Naomi Watts) wishing to protect this child, crosses paths with the imposing Russian gangsters and in particular, a driver (Mortensen).

It's a very noble story and a neglected element in movies (aside from Boris the Blade in Snatch!), but writer Steven Knight seems to treat it a little too noble and it comes off like a TV movie, or even a Newsnight investigation. There's plenty of intrigue, but it all comes to nothing. It's predictable and worst of all, there's no peril. Watts is great as the nurse, but there's little for her to do other than grimace bravely and I never felt like anything was going to happen to her. Going into it, I had the impression that Viggo may provide the threat, but sadly, he like everything else in the movie is full of hot air.
(click to show/hide)

Not to take anything away from him. He is incredible; a commanding presence covered in tattoos and attitude. I also can't blame Cronenberg, because he simply had nothing to work with, apart from one saving grace: a naked Mortensen in a viscous bloody sauna fight. It's a fantastic scene, bravely played by the actor and vintage Cronenberg. It's amongst the best scenes of the year and earned the film a whole extra star for my money. So sad most of the audience will be asleep by the time it comes around.

But for that scene, this movie belonged on TV. Sunday night, probably. Thinking about it, Kinight's previous film (Dirty Pretty Things) is very similar, but it at least had a sense of surrealism to lift it out of the doldrums.

Big missed opportunity. Cronenberg and those characters could have had something to match A History of Violence. Instead we got a Crimewatch reconstruction; very real, but in the movies, you need a bit of exaggeration to keep the attention.

The DVD is light on extras, but Viggo's interview is interesting as he talks about his intricate tattoos and the explicit meanings in the Russian crime world and prisons.

 :-\

Offline Jimmy

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Re: Eastern Promises
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2008, 02:05:47 PM »
That was one that I was waiting to buy, mainly because I'm a fan of Cronenberg since Shivers (I know I don't have it, I wait for a special edition). If this is a "tv movie" feeling film and no commentary track by Cronnenberg, I will pass on this one untill I find it really cheap. Thanks for the review.

Except for one director most of the time it looks like we agree, so I trust you on this  :laugh:

Najemikon

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Re: Eastern Promises
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2008, 09:25:40 PM »
:laugh:

Cronenberg has always struck me as the sort of director who likes to really explore and wallow in a particular moment when he knows everything is in place to handle it (the ending of The Brood!). Kind of like in A History of Violence when the fights are that touch more brutal, but merely emphasise the story rather than being gratuitous. I just didn't get that here.

I'd liked to have seen what Tarantino would have done with the story... :tease: :devil: