"Eastern Promises" reunites actor Viggo Mortensen with director David Cronenberg to create a brutal thriller that provides a stark glimpse into the Russian mafia underworld. Like their previous collaboration, "A History of Violence", "Eastern Promises" is rooted in organized crime and reveals the bloody consequences when regular people fall into the violent trappings that comes with being involved with the mob.
It begins when Anna, portrayed by Naomi Watts, who is a nurse at a London hospital, attempts to track down the family of a young girl who died while giving birth. With the fate of the baby at stake, she begins with a business card found in the girls' diary that leads her to a family run Russian restaurant and her first encounter with Nikolai, played by the sharply dressed Viggo Mortensen.
Nikolai, works as a driver for the Russian crime family, and carries his criminal history tattooed on his body. As just a henchman to the mob, he appears to know more than he should and warns Anna to steer clear of the family. Yet Anna not realizing what she is dealing with, allows herself to be charmed by the crime family boss, and reveals enough information to put everyone around her in jeopardy.
The storyline has its share of surprises, and like most of Croenenberg's movies, the scenes are undermined with a perverse sexuality that confronts us and makes it impossible to look away. And while the on-screen chemistry between Watts and Mortensen clicks, itís the gruesome interactions of the crime family that carries the film to its climax.
Long time Cronenberg fans may bemoan that the director has sold out and gone mainstream, by making two gangster movies in a row. And while David Cronenberg's recent work, has steered away from the science fiction and fantasy themes of his earlier movies such as "Videodrome" or "ExistenZ", "Eastern Promises" shows that Cronenberg is a master storyteller who regardless of genre, knows how to creep out his audience and imprint them with the kind of disturbing imagery that leaves viewers haunted after seeing them on-screen.
Full frontal storytelling is something that director David Cronenberg excels at, and regardless of the kind of movies he makes, he challenges his audience to look at the gory details. Squirm as we might, Cronenberg knows how to capture his audience and compels us to keep watching.
For Movie Magazine, this is Purple.
© 2007 - Purple - Air Date: 9/19/07
UK / Canada / USA - 2007