innocent_man: (goodguys)
[personal profile] innocent_man
Eastern Promises is a David Cronenberg film starring Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts about the Russian mafia. It's kind of noir-ish, using a baby and a diary as MacGuffins and Vincent Cassel as a foil.

Watts is a midwife who delivers the baby of a 14-year-old heroin addict, who dies shortly thereafter. She's carrying a diary, but it's in Russian (Watts' character happens to be of Russian extraction, but she can't read it). Her uncle reads a bit, but refuses to translate it. Anna (Watts) finds a business card for a restaurant in the diary, and goes there, meeting Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), who, at first, appears kindly and grandfathery. But she gets the creeps off him pretty quickly, and rightly so; he's a mob boss. She also meets his son, Kirill (Cassell) and his "driver", Nikolai (Mortensen).

The rest of the movie advances the plotlines of the intrigues of the mob (Semyon trying to protect his idiot son, who ordered a hit he shouldn't have, by sacrificing Nikolai) and Anna's attempts to learn the truth about the girl and her baby and find her family. It turns out that the baby is Semyon's child (he raped the teen girl), and this bit of knowledge puts Anna's family at risk. Meanwhile, Semyon sets up Nikolai to die in place of Kirill, but does that by allowing him to advance in the "family," which turns out to be awkward when Nikolai survives, 'cause he's a cop.

The movie is nicely paced, for as heavy as it is. The violence is kind of graphic, but the rape is only ever mentioned, rather than shown onscreen (Nikolai is forced to have sex with a prostitute as Kirill, who is self-hating gay, watches, but if it's rape then both Nikolai and the girl are victims), and the tense moments in the movie are played just enough for the tension to be dramatic but not enough to make you want to crawl out of your skin. It's more skillfully done than, say, A History of Violence (which I also enjoyed), and features some really good performances from all the principles. Mortensen was nominated for an Oscar for this role (lost to Daniel Day-Lewis, and deservedly so). Like I said, noir with a Russian twist, so that's cool.

My grade: A-
Rewatch value: Low-medium. Well-paced, but still heavy

Next up: Ed Wood


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