Friday, January 18, 2008

Eastern Promises

Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007) [7]
Eastern Promises is easily Cronenberg's most mainstream film to date but still being able to retain some of the macabre violence that are in his other films. What he's done here is made a tightly structured thriller that for whatever reasons, isn't as psychologically probing as his other work. Part of that could be being thrown out of his element a little bit, the story here taking place with the Russian mob in London. Naomi Watts is a midwife out to find why a young girl died giving birth, which throws her into the world of sexual child slavery and the Russian mob. It's safe to say she gets in a little too much over her head, and needs the help of Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen), a chauffeur in the mafia that's has a humanistic side. The story winds its way until all Anna, Nikolai, the head of the crime family and his son, as well as others bent on revenge all end up intertwining. This is a tightly constructed film, and Cronenberg plays it a little too close to Steve Knight's humanistic script at times. It's interesting that the crux of the film is sexual slavery of young women from Eastern Europe and yet the film itself never really addresses it up front. The girl, Tatianna, hovers over the film though, as her diary entries, the entry point for Anna as well as our involvement, serves as a voice-over. Even though its well done, it seems like Cronenberg is too pre-occupied with hitting all the points of the script to dig a little deeper into these character's psyche. What I admired about A History of Violence is, even with its central story, its themes addressed the violent nature of this nation, asked questions, and tried to find answers. Here, I think a little more of that would have been to the film's benefit. Even though, the story has some unexpected twists which Cronenberg gets credit for keeping so well hidden. There's excellent performances by Mortensen and Amir Muellen-Stahl as the patriarchal crime boss as well as the infamous bath house fight scene. And for once, a film dealing with a different culture to Western audiences isn't portrayed as some exotic other to be observed but as complex people with defining traits.

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