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|Eastern Promises (Blu-ray Disc, 2008)|
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Average review score based on 37 user reviews
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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.
Deservedly praised for their work on the Masterful 'A History of Violence' (2005), David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen reunite to a bit lesser, yet very satisfying, effect with 'Eastern Promises'; a dramatic thriller written by Steve Knight (Oscar-Nominee 'Dirty Pretty Things').
Punctuated by 'Graphic Sequences' of convulsive violence and laced with macabre humor — (two of Cronenberg's signature motifs) — this riveting and atmospheric film carries you through to an end on such a bewilderingly abrupt note; you may wonder if there's a missing reel.
Set primarily in London's Russian Community, 'Eastern Promises' stars Naomi Watts as Anna Khritrova, a midwife born to a Russian father and English mother (Sinead Cusack). Saddened by the death of a Russian teenager in childbirth, Anna resolves to find the baby's relatives. However, the only substantive information Anna can find about the dead girl is in her personal diary, written in Russian (a language Anna's never learned).
Ignoring the advice of her ill-tempered Russian Uncle Stepan (Jerzy Skolimowski) to turn the diary over to the police, Anna finds a translator in Seymon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), the cultured Old World Owner of the Trans-Siberian Restaurant. What Anna doesn't know is that Seymon is actually a ruthless member of the feared Vory V Zakone Criminal Brotherhood — and that he and his volatile son Kirill (Vincent Cassell) have a sordid history with the dead girl that must remain secret.
To that end, they rely on trusted driver Nikolai Luzhin (Mortensen), whose cryptic, soft-spoken demeanor betrays nothing, making him all the more formidable of Enforcers. Yet for reasons introduced later, Nikolai seems to want to help Anna — even as he rises in the Vory V Zakone.
Evocatively shot by Cronenberg's longtime cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, 'Eastern Promises' provides a viscerally disturbing glimpse of the Eastern European "people traffic" conducted by the Vory Z Zakone (a real-life criminal syndicate) and others. There are scenes here as nerve-fraying as anything as Cronenberg's ever done; a fight scene in a public bath is almost unbearably intense; and the insidious dread of the film persists throughout.
The police are shown briefly, investigating the related-murder of a Chechen Gangster, but then disappear until Cronenberg and Knight bring them back for a late-breaking plot twist that's revealing and creatively developed.
Although 'Eastern Promises' doesn't quite live up to the masterpiece that set their bar with 'A History of Violence'; it's assuredly not a letdown. And Mortensen has never been better. Playing the enigmatic Nikolai, his sinewy physique covered in tattoos, he's a mesmerizing presence, both lethal and morally conflicted. "He" fulfills the promise of 'A History of Violence'.
Good Film, with an atmospheric and fulfilling portrait of another family of Mafia; leaving behind the stereotypes and overly-cinematized Italian Mob.
Applauds Nonetheless....Doesn't Dissapoint !!
"Eastern Promises" is raw and powerful. In this fast-paced and captivating film the characters draw the viewer into the scenes and make it believable at the same time. It is not however an easy, relaxing movie night choice. The profanity is frequent - even excessive - there is a never-ending shading between the good and bad, there are heights of human power as well as extreme vulnerability and removal of dignity.
It is one of those movies you watch once and then a second time to pick out the subtleties which were missed in the first viewing. For anyone who loves a movie which deals with gray areas instead of the black and white, this is the perfect movie. Many times, it is hard to determine whether to love or hate many of the characters and it is compelling in that it leaves more questions than answers.
The cast is a perfect blend of international actors who bring the story to life with realistic accents, dialogs, mannerisms,and traditions. "Eastern Promises" is poignant because it strips human nature down to the essentials - life and death - and the will to live.
As I was searching movie reviews from the past several years to see what good films I might have missed, the comments and critiques intrigued me and I realized somehow this movie slipped past my notice and I'm very sorry it did for so long.
Since I've purchased and watched it, I've spoken to several friends about it who have since borrowed it and found it as entertaining as I have, for many of the same reasons. "Eastern Promises" is a compelling portrayal of human nature with all the symbolism, grit, and rough experiences movie-viewers could hope to have packed into one film. It's definitely not pretty but absolutely powerful in its depth.
Was intrigued by preview and wanted to see how everything would turn out. After watching movie, gleaned information about how Russian Mafia is set up and run. The story has two main characters in my opinion. The first is the tough guy driver (Played by Viggo) who aspires to do more than be a guard for the bosses son. The second is the baby of a 14 year old girl that was raped and murdered. They create the common bond that brings to light the drivers true self. Watch this if like bloody fights, murders and Mafia family values. Viggo's portrayal is excellent, he brings the loner type with killer abilities and a heart. You WILL enjoy this flick.
This movie is a favorite of mine being that I am half Russian!!! It has a lot to do with Organized Crime. It takes place in England, but the gang in the movie are Russian Mafia. They speak some Russian, and it's written at the bottom of the screen so you can easily follow along!!!
Viggo Mortensen who plays the Lead or Lead Supporting Actor was Nominated for an Oscar for his performance in this movie!!! It took over 6 hours for them to put all the tattoos on him for this movie, and he also learned to speak some Russian. He is also seen in the movie several times with a set of home-made worry beads.... They are made of melted lighters from a Russian Prison!!!
The movie starts off nice and easy; but it doesn't get boring at all!!! You have to follow the movie to fully understand what is happening. And the ending... It's a shocker, and I know it will surprise you for sure!!!
I purchased this at a low price. And the DVD is an original DVD sealed and just like the ones from stores!!! Dramatic RAW knife fighting scene!!! Learn about how the Russian Mafia despose of bodies!!! Great movie for the CRIME Guru!!! NOTE**** Violence, Language, Nudity....
I hope you enjoy
I give it 8 stars out of 10!!! 10 being the best movies I have ever seen in my life so....