Monday, December 15, 2008

Eastern Promises

2007 crime drama by master of the tense and creepy, David Cronenberg, about a Russian family very connected to the Russian mob that everyone seems to want access to whether it's a driver looking to move up in the ranks, a woman trying to find answers about a girl who turned up dead in her hospital or a police officer trying to bring the family down. What starts this great march to the sea is when a very young girl shows up very pregnant and deceased at a London hospital and her diary seems to implicate a local Russian restaurant owner (played as a wonderful, sweet, harmless old man by way too underrated actor Armin Mueller-Stahl) as the father, and not through consensual means. The nurse from the hospital (Naomi Watts) goes looking for answers and bites off more than she can chew, including simply making contact with a driver the family calls the undertaker (played to uber-creepy perfection by Viggo Mortensen). The performances in this movie are great and those great performances mixed with fantastic sights and sounds make this movie feel like you really did wander into the wrong part of town, rather than watching a movie about the wrong part of town. Where this movie falls short is in scope. Cronenberg simply tries to do too much, and in return doesn't do anything as well as he could have. There are too many story lines going on here. If he'd trimmed it up, made some primary stories backstories and streamlined the movie a bit more overall, then this really could've been a catchy, engaging crime drama, rather than a kind of boring slice-of-life drama. That said, the performances were all really, really good and felt totally natural, including some by actors like Mueller-Stahl and French actor Vincent Cassel who go way under-noticed. Long story short, this movie is gritty, tense and a good watch, but it's nothing great.


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