Eastern Promises is the latest film from cult director David Cronenburg. This film also re-teams him with actor Viggo Mortensen (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) who also stared in Cronenburg’s last film, A History of Violence. In Eastern Promises, Mortensen plays a notorious low-key gangster/driver named Nikolai Luzhin. He finds out that his existence has been compromised, when a woman (Naomi Watts) inadvertently discovers a notebook, from a dead girl that has some information that’s incriminates a member of his family and threatens his existence. Soon, his life is threatened as he begins to fear that people wants him dead, as he can’t trust anyone not even his own family. This will lead to murder, deceit and retribution for all those involved. Vincent Cassel (Derailed, Oceans Twelve) and Armin Mueller-Stahl (Shine, The X Files movie) co-star in the film.
Eastern Promises is a very dark and gritty gangster film that may not be for everyone, unlike me. I’m really starting to become a Cronenberg fan. He seemed to have gotten away from his trademark weirdness that’s been seen in most of his films like Crash (1996), Naked Lunch and Videodrome. He’s focusing his efforts mostly on directing these days, instead of writing the films too. I like how he captures the dark atmosphere here, as it goes very well with the subject matter here. He again, like A History of Violence manages to have the gangsters be creepy villainous characters, which is great and is not seen in many films of this genre. The screenplay was written by, Steven Knight who was nominated for Oscar in 2004 for Dirty Pretty Things. I thought he was very disciplined with the screenplay, as he didn’t rush the story along or try to move it along to the point where you don’t understand anything. He takes his time developing the characters and inserting the back-story of the dead girl within the film, which helps its grittiness more and plays a vital role here. Also, I’m very surprised that the filmmakers got away with it’s R rating as there was a fight in the shower with a naked Mortensen, near the end of the film. Usually that’s something that the rating board frowns upon.
What also makes a great gritty gangster film is the acting and it was great here. I thought Viggo Mortensen was perfect for this role, as it’s worth an Oscar nomination. He brought that creepiest edge to the role, which made it perfect. At times, his character reminded me of Ed Harris in A History Of Violence. He’s up there with Guy Pearce, as one of Hollywood’s most underrated actors. Naomi Watts was very good, as she seemed to capture the innocents of this character, who caught in the middle of this.
Eastern Promises is a very gloomy gangster film that Cronenberg and gangster film films will have the benefit of watching one the best films of the year.