Eastern Promises David Cronenberg

Eastern Promises David Cronenberg

Despite a simple, subtle storyline, David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises is a beautifully shot, dark crime thriller punctuated by moments of violence that allow Cronenberg to satisfy his love for blood and gore. It’s Cronenberg’s movie but Viggo Mortensen steals the show in his best role to date, playing the ambiguous Nikolai (a chauffeur and "undertaker” in London’s Russian mafia) one part quiet, ambitious thug and one part sensitive street soldier. In fact, his much talked about nude bathhouse fight scene towards the end of the movie threatens to overshadow everything else about the film. However, Eastern Promises is really about Anna (played by Naomi Watts), an ordinary midwife who witnesses the death of a young pregnant girl during her shift at the hospital. When Anna takes into her own hands the responsibility for locating the baby’s family, she finds herself drawn into the shady underworld of Nikolai, as she traces the steps of the dead woman back to the Trans-Siberian restaurant, a front for the Russian mafia, headed by family patriarch Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl). The story is intriguing, and the Russian accents/language and tattoos (the emphasis on the latter a suggestion by Mortensen, according to one of the DVD’s featurettes) give the story a sense of realism. And as an auteur intrigued by the manipulation of the body, Cronenberg makes the tattoos into a major component of the film. The featurette "Marked for Life” gives some great background on the importance of these tattoos within Russian crime circles, and a second featurette, "Secrets and Stories,” is something of a "making of” documentary. Unfortunately, these are the only two bonus features in this bare bones packaging and they run a combined time of less than 20 minutes. While it might be a good idea to wait for the better version of the DVD that’s likely to follow at some point in the near future, Eastern Promises is certainly worth watching sooner. (Alliance)