Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel, Armin Mueller-Stahl
Prior to this I had not watched any of David Cronenberg's films. I had wanted to watch A History Of Violence, but it didn't make it here. And after hearing about the amount of things in this film that wouldn't get past the censors, I had thought Eastern Promises would suffer the same fate. Miraculously, it made it. With a price, but more on that later.
Eastern Promises takes place in London, where a pregnant 14 year old girl is brought into the hospital after collapsing at the pharmacy. The midwife, Anna (Naomi Watts) fails to save her, but manages to save the baby, a girl. Anna finds only a diary amongst the girl's belongings, and through it, learns that her name is Tatiana. A business card of a Russian restaurant in the diary leads Anna to its manager, Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl). Anna tries to persuade Semyon to translate Tatiana's diary (which is written in Russian), so that she may find a way to send the child to Tatiana's next-of-kin.
Anna's mother and Russian uncle warn her of the dangers in doing so, when they realize that Tatiana may have been in trouble with Russian gangsters, after the uncle reads the diary. But Anna pushes on, trying to find justice for the dead girl. Later, she meets Semyon's troublemaking son Kirill (Vincent Cassel) and his driver Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen). The former doesn't take too kindly to Anna's inquiries, while the latter tries to help her and not get her in trouble with his employers.
Unfortunately, it's too late as Anna finds herself knee deep in the mud after discovering Semyon's connection to the girl. As Nikolai tries to keep her alive, he finds himself at odds with Kirill over an execution of a man that had done the latter wrong. It all comes down to a brutal confrontation, which our local censors were more than happy to cut up!
Sigh. I had to go to imdb just to find out how the violence went down in a certain scene, as the censors butchered a majority of the whole thing. And they did a bad job with the profanity cuts as well. Disruption to the movie flow is baaaad. Just bad. Ruined my enjoyment of the film.
But let's see what I can say about it. I'll give points to Viggo Mortensen for his very convincing portrayal of a Russian mobster. Mannerisms, accent, language.....all very authentic. Though after seeing how Russians speak to each other, I wonder if they always talk so slowly. But that's ok. Cassel just does another one of his wild, rebellious characters in here, with good effect. Watts grounds the film well as the emotional core. Cronenberg delivers in making the film as bleak and shady as it should be.
However, the film lacks a proper climax. When it was over, I found myself feeling like I had sat through a movie made for TV. Sigh. It needs just a little more tension and suspense. And since it was lacking in that, it relied on Mortensen's screen presence to carry it. It's just not enough. Mortensen though deserves the Oscar nomination he got for it.
I'm gonna look for the DVD and watch this again, maybe I'll enjoy it more then. (3.5/5)