Monday, February 25, 2013

Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)

As part of the 21 Years...21 Stars Series
Highlighted Star: Viggo Mortensen

   Eastern Promises is the sum of all of its parts and nothing more. It is marketed as a crime thriller, and provides the tropes of its genre most delectably. Crime is what pushes the film and the thrills throughout serve as a means to flesh out the film. Neither the acting nor the cinematography do anything to really help the story. In certain films that can be an advantage. But with this film, I felt that more could have been added to the material. In the end, Eastern Promises does not break any grounds or elevate itself above the constraints of its genre.

There is a romance aspect to it as befitting every movie featuring a criminal as one of the leads. There is a normal character that gets sucked into the criminal underworld. This is not to say that I didn't enjoy the film. Actually, I was definitely entertained throughout. It features two of my favorite actors: Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts (Can I just do a shameless plug here of how sad I felt for Watts at the Oscars last night? I was rooting for Jennifer Lawrence, but it hurt me to see the resignation in Watts' face. She just knew she didn't stand a chance). Watts plays a nurse who helps deliver the baby of a young, Russian teenager who dies during childbirth. Watts finds the teenager's diary and, in an attempt to prevent the baby girl from going into the foster care system, she tries to get it translated. She finds the card of a Russian restaurant establishment amongst the dead teen's possessions and decides to pay a visit. She makes the acquaintance of Mortensen, the driver to the family that owns the restaurant, and of the older owner of the restaurant; the owner offers to help translate the diary. Soon, however, Watts begins to realize that the old man knows more about the young teen than he pretends. By the time she realizes that the Russian owners are members of the Russian mafia, she is in too deep. Her family begins receiving threats and the only person she may or may not have on her side from the other side is none other than Mortensen's character.
   The film definitely did not feature Watts at her best. Don't get me wrong, she is solid. She's a great actress and, in lesser hands, her character could have come across as too foolhardy. But Watts manages to humanize her. Still, her character lacks the usual multi-dimensional aspects of her other roles. Besides Watts and Mortensen and Vincent Cassel, no other actor really shines in the film, not even Watts' crazy, racist Russian uncle. But more than that, as cold-hearted as I may come across by saying this, I didn't really feel for the dead teen or her baby. I don't think enough background story was provided for the former to really pack an emotional punch for the viewer. The acclaimed fighting sequence is also tame. I don't see what everybody was going goo-goo-ga-ga over. Viggo's peen perhaps.
   Overall, I think Eastern Promises was definitely a nice film. I would recommend it to anybody. I think it has wide appeal. And maybe by doing that it did stretch itself too thin. But, I guarantee you that you'll have a swell time watching it. I was certainly entertained.

Ludovico Rating

Viggo's Role In The Film:

Viggo Mortensen is undoubtedly the best part of the film. He really is an amazing actor. His character kept you guessing throughout the entire movie until the very end. Speaking of the ending, I loved it. Prior to seeing this film, everywhere I looked, people were bashing the ending. Yet, I found it satisfying. During the final scene, Viggo managed to perfectly portray a man on the verge of a transformation. As the credits roll, you continue guessing as to what Viggo's next move will be. That is the sign of great acting. The character becomes crystallized in your mind and you still wonder about him as if he were a real person. It is also testament to Naomi' talent that Viggo's superior acting in this particular film did not completely overshadow her. She seems to be his anchor throughout the film, helping keep his character grounded and real. This man is incredible.

Viggo's Acting Ludovico Rating


  1. That is exactly the way I felt about this film. I had my hopes up because everyone was talking it up in the months following "A History of Violence". I however didn't feel that "Eastern Promises" was as good. Viggo=Great. Film=Pretty Good.

    1. Agreed. I'm hoping A History Of Violence delivers.