By all accounts “Eastern Promises” should be a much better movie than it is. The acting is quite good, the direction is solid, and the
screenplay packs some good characters and an interesting plot.
However, director David Cronenberg’s follow-up to his very good “A History of Violence” falls flat in just enough ways to disappoint overall.
Viggo “The King” Mortensen plays Nikolai, a driver for the Russian mob in London. He meets Naomi Watts’ Anna, a midwife, while she
searches to find the family of a child whose mother died in childbirth. The mother is linked directly to the Russians Nikolai works for, and
their paths are set in motion.
Viggo Mortensen’s performance is definitely the highlight of the film. He sports a cold demeanor, a perfect Russian accent, and some
pretty nice moves in the film’s best sequence, an uncomfortably raw fight in a bathhouse.
Aside from this scene, however, I felt that “Eastern Promises” fell short in the all-important excitement/drama category.
As a mob thriller, the film just isn’t very thrilling. There isn’t enough tension to ever be concerned about the characters; except for the
bathhouse fight, of course.
As you would expect from the director of “A History of Violence,” there are some fairly graphic sequences, but they aren’t as satisfying as in
the aforementioned film. Not that it should be held up in direct competition, but it serves to show how much better “Eastern Promises”
should have been.
The film lumbers along without any exciting revelations or twists. And the ending is unsatisfying and barely resolved. At just 100 minutes, it
could have been expanded.
It’s a film where you sit through it and are entertained, but when it’s over, you think: “Is that it?”
Steven Knight’s screenplay is just a bit too realistic. If these characters were put into this situation, this is probably what would happen.
And while truth in the characters and their actions is to be applauded, it doesn’t provide a satisfying movie experience, especially
considering the genre and what we expect.
It may sound like I’m being very critical of this film, but had the ending been better; I would have recommended “Eastern Promises.” It’s an
intelligent, well made movie that just falls short of being good.
* * 1/2
(out of four)
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Written by: Steven Knight
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts
Cinematography by: Peter Suschitzky
Music by: Howard Shore
Released: September 14, 2007; 100 Minutes