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Eastern Promises (A Movie Review)

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

Eastern Promises

Eastern Promises


Starring Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel, Armen Mueller-Stahl, Sinaed Cusack, Donald Sumter, Jerzy Skolimowski, Yousef Altin, Andrej Borkowski, Gergo Danka, Faton Gerbeshi, Raza Jaffrey and Sarah-Jeanne LaBrosse.

Screenplay by Steve Knight.

Directed by David Cronenberg.

Distributed by Focus Features.  101 minutes.  Rated R.

Director David Cronenberg basically resurrected his career with last year’s collaboration with Viggo Mortensen in the acclaimed A History of Violence.

Mortensen is along for the ride again for the follow-up, and while the Russian mafia melodrama Eastern Promises is not up to the standard of their last team-up, it still is a crisp and tense thriller.

Eastern Promises takes a look at the complicated and violent lives of gangsters in a Russian section of London.

Naomi Watts plays Anna, a midwife of mixed descent (half-Russian, half-English) who gets dragged into the underworld when she treats a 14-year-old pregnant immigrant who is attacked right before she is to give birth.  When the girl dies but the baby survives, she only has the girl’s diary – in Russian – to find out who she is and if she has family who can take care of the baby.

She finds a business card to a restaurant and supper club in the diary.  When she goes there, trying to find if anyone knew the girl or if they could translate her diary for a name or address, she stumbles into a viper’s nest of drugs, trafficking, prostitution and murder.

Only two people seem to be willing to help her.  One is the friendly-but-suspicious restaurateur (Armin Mueller-Stahl) who runs the place.  The other is a new limo driver (Mortensen) who is quickly making his way up the ranks of the organization.

The film is in general rather interesting, though it does have a tendency to flip back and forth between segments which border on dull followed by graphic violence.

One warning, though.  The movie relies on a plot twist, one which does not play out until about 3/4 of the way through the film and one that I will not disclose for sake of not ruining a surprise.  However this twist was not a revelation to me because it was matter-of-factly exposed in almost everything I have previously read about the film.  In fact, I was surprised when this fact was not made clear right away because I had assumed it was a fundamental fact of the story.  Then I spent much of the film wondering if the writers could have gotten something so basic wrong.  It turned out they hadn’t – but this prior knowledge ruined the film’s biggest shock.  If you have read anything else about the movie, you will probably quickly notice this as well – so if you haven’t, wait until you see the film before reading further stories on it.

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2008 All rights reserved. Posted: January 3, 2008.

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