Eastern Promises Reviews
Cronenberg has a smart stable method to work his way up on the ladder. His simplicity, and even cliches, has a panache that any filmmaker would die to have for. His lucid flow on storytelling is why it all looks so simple and easy. He doesn't rely much upon antics, but when there are their to work upon, he makes sure he builds them up sincerely and weaves them out sharply on the screen. Take the holy ceremonial or mythological ritual sequence that these gangs go through before claiming their titles or roles in their community. That entire sequence where Mortensen surrenders himself to their religion or the game that they believe in and feed themselves in, says a lot about the integrity of these characters.
These tiny characteristics of the characters is why we care, this attractive nature of theirs makes us root for them from the start. There isn't much action in the film, but only once does Mortensen throws a punch, and that entire sequence is not only well choreographed and shot but also brilliantly performed. Nikolai; the protagonist, played powerfully by Viggo Mortensen is not your average Godfather-like mafia member, he wants to prove himself and he does.
Naomi Watts cloaking as Anna, the sort-of voice of the reason of the film has unfortunately very less to invest. In fact, Vincent Cassel as a spoiled brat has much more threat to convey with his uncertainty. Stephen Knight, the writer, is not overprotective or melodramatic about his content, he gives up easily but wisely, he makes sure that there is another surprising layer attached to it, to ground the emotions and justify these killings. Eastern Promises has a promising premise, scoffing off the usual crime drama rigmarole, David Cronenberg focuses on the heart of these characters.
The story actually gets interesting once you start to see the driver show some compassion. You start to wonder how a man who chops up bodies and kills people can be empathetical towards people. That one fight scene in the bath house was brutal.
There was a twist I wasn't expecting and they made it so subtle.
I think the best way to describe this movie would be that it lack some taste. I don't really care to know more about the Russian mobs. But, interesting plot and story but not a movie I'd go back and watch again. It's cool to see how these inside jobs work and taking a glimpse inside how one works was cool to see.
I'm Russian, so I get pretty critical and nitpicky when I see Russian characters in Hollywood movies. Usually I get mad or disappointed, usually the portrayals are disgraceful, the language is barely Russian at all, the people talking this mangled language barely try. Not to mention the typical Russian villains.
But here, WOW. I feel like this is the best Russian portrayal I've seen out of Hollywood. Any better than this and it'd be some kind of joint Russian production. You could tell the production did its research, most of the actors took their Russian lessons seriously, the Russian dialog made sense and was surprisingly natural. Hell, they even finally hired real Russians to play some of the extras.
And Viggo just... He just knocked it out the park and into another galaxy. I always heard he had a talent for languages, but to hear it here was a shock. He nailed the language. Bravo to him. I might even go as far as to say that this was Viggo's most impressive role yet.
I also have to say that I was really surprised by the quality of the cast here. They all did a serviceable job.
Now the story took me by surprise. The third act of the movie is refreshingly unexpected. I thought I had a good grip on it all, and then I was pleasantly proven wrong. It elevated the movie from a good movie, to a great one.
I can recommend this movie to anyone with a completely clear conscience.
'Eastern Promises' is a movie that would appear to have everything: good performances, excellent direction/cinematography, and a proved writer in Steven Knight. Yet, for whatever reason, it never quite lands as well as it should. There's nothing blatantly wrong with the movie, but there's nothing particularly noteworthy either. It's a well-made crime drama made by very talented people, all of which have done better, but could do a helluva lot worse too.