Friday, February 13 - Sunday, February 15, 2015
“David Cronenberg’s EASTERN PROMISES opens with a throat-slashing and a young woman collapsing in blood in a drugstore, and connects these events with a descent into an underground of Russians who have immigrated to London and brought their crime family with them. Like the Corleone family, but with a less wise and more fearsome patriarch, the Vory V Zakone family of the Russian mafia operates in the shadows of legitimate business — in this case, a popular restaurant.
“The slashing need not immediately concern us. The teenage girl who hemorrhages is raced to a hospital and dies in childbirth in the arms of a midwife named Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts). Fiercely determined to protect the helpless surviving infant, she uses her Russian-born mother and uncle (Sinead Cusack and Jerzy Skolimowski) to translate the dead girl’s diary, and it leads her to a restaurant run by Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), the head of the mafia family. Her uncle begs her to go nowhere near that world.
“Semyon has a vile son named Kirill (Vincent Cassel) and a violent but loyal driver and bodyguard, Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen). And the gears of the story shift into place when the diary, the midwife and the crime family become interlocked.
“EASTERN PROMISES is no ordinary crime thriller, just as Cronenberg is no ordinary director. Beginning with low-rent horror films in the 1970s, because he could get them financed, Cronenberg has moved film by film into the top rank of directors, and here he wisely reunites with Mortensen, star of their A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005). No, Mortensen is not Russian, but don’t even think about the problem of an accent; he digs so deeply into the role you may not recognize him at first…
“Mortensen’s Nikolai is the key player, trusted by Semyon. We are reminded of Don Corleone’s trust in an outsider, Tom Hagen, over his own sons, Sonny and Fredo. Here Semyon depends on Nikolai more than Kirill, who has an ugly streak that sometimes interferes with the orderly conduct of business. Anna (Watts) senses she can trust Nikolai, too, even though it is established early that this tattooed warrior is capable of astonishing violence. At a time when movie “fight scenes” are as routine as the dances in musicals, Nikolai engages in a fight in this film that sets the same kind of standard that The French Connection set for chases. Years from now, it will be referred to as a benchmark.” – Roger Ebert
- Country USA/UK/Canada
- Rating R
- Year 2007
- Running Time 100 minutes
- Director David Cronenberg