The Attempted Review of Eastern Promises

Posted by WhenYourGodGivesYouLemons On 11:05 PM

2005 provided us with something great, the union of director David Cronenberg and actor Viggo Mortensen in the hit film A History of Violence. For those of us that loved this union we were given another taste of it's cinematic quality with the 2007 release Eastern Promises.

What it's all about... The film starts at a blistering pace with the hit on a Russian mob member, a Vory. Then we are introduced to Tatiana a pregnant teenager who has escaped from a Russian whorehouse and this is where the story really sets out from. Tatiana unfortunately dies during child birth but her baby, a little girl later named Christina, survives leading midwife Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts) to seek out a family member so the girl isn't sent into foster care. She finds a journal written in Russian belonging to Tatiana and she hopes this will lead her to her family. After her Russian uncle refuses to translate the journal for her Anna acts on the only lead she has, a business card for a Russian restaurant. This is when we are introduced to Viggo Mortensen's character Nikolai Luzhin a driver for the restaurants owner Seymon, who doubles as a powerful Russian crimeboss. Seymon agrees to translate the journal, whilst at the sametime Anna's uncle has also agreed to translate the journal. What Anna discovers is that Tatiana was raped and Seymon and his family are heavily involved. Meanwhile Nikolai is making his way up the criminal ladder and along he is exposed to murder, betrayal and a string of choices.

What it Did Well... It captured the feel of a living, breathing Russian crime family where the double life prevails as they mix family and friends with the harsh criminal underbelly. The inclusion of the tattoos was also very cool as tattooing is very important to the Russian criminal lifestyle, as they say you are nothing if you aren't tattooed. Mortensen's tattoos look very realistic even scarying a Russian couple when he went out to dinner and still had his tattoos on. Also carrying on from A History of Violence the fight sequences are exceptionally crafted looking highly realistic and brutal making you feel every cut and every blow. The fact that it has only a few violent scenes is enhanced by the brutality of these scenes, making each one memorable. Mortensen does a terrific job as the strong and relatively silent Nikolai, if I were to see him I'd defintely think he was with the mafia. His sly and very dark humour is somewhat unexpected due to his role as a man who speaks when spoken to but adds another element to this strange figure who feels comfortable around death. He speaks with some wisdom when he does speak and I just loved hearing him talk in Russian and all this masks a man who is subtely pulling the strings of the people around him as he attempts to climb the criminal hierachy.

What it Didn't... There wasn't really much that this film didn't do right. It was a beautifully shot and scripted film with plenty of unexpected twists and turns. It creates what you'd believe to be an authentic image of Russian crimelife without glorifying it. Personally though I would have liked it to have been a little longer, it only went for about 80 minutes and they could have fleshed out what happens to Seymon or soemthing, it just didn't feel like it ended properly. Also I'm sure there was a way we could have avoided seeing Viggo Mortensen naked, especially when he's fighting in a steam room. The fight was amazing, the nakedness not so.

Memorable Scene... The above mentioned steam room scene. This is both in part due to the nakedness which just makes you feel awkward and due to the fight itself which isn't for the faint at heart. Mortensen gets jumped by two guys whilst he's having a steam, that's why I avoid steam rooms, and what ensues is a gritty, bloody fight to the death one where even if you win you aren't coming out the same man. Mortensen leaves bloody, beaten and barely alive and you leave feeling impressed and disturbed at the sametime.

What this All Means... Eastern Promises is an interesting look into Russian crimelife. Not quite reaching the heights of gangster powerhouse the Godfather when it comes to story it is still a beautifully presented film and you certainly won't see many more memorable action scenes than you do in Eastern Promises. I give Eastern Promises 8 and a half slits of the throat out of 10.



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