Eastern Promises (2007)

Eh, guess it's time to snip this guy's fingertips off...

Eh, guess it’s time to snip this guy’s fingertips off…

In Eastern Promises, my old friend David Cronenberg takes on the Russian mafia in London. Probably most well-known for some blurry frames which happen to include Viggo Mortensen’s most private of parts, Eastern Promises offers a lot more than the potential for a freeze-frame party. Like Cronenberg’s last film A History of Violence, Eastern Promises is about living the dream. This time, of course, it’s not the American dream, but the Western dream; the non-post-Soviet dream.

The story begins when a midwife namd Anna (Naomi Watts) helps deliver a baby girl to a 14-year-old Russian girl named Tatiana. Tatiana dies soon after giving birth, leaving only her diary and the orphaned girl behind. Having Russian roots herself, she asks her uncle Stepan to translate the Russian girl’s diary. His stubborn refusal sends her off to explore the only clue she finds: a business card for the Trans-Siberian restaurant. There she encounters a (seemingly) kind old man named Semyon, the owner. Semyon claims he knows of no girl fitting the description, but happily agrees to translate the

Anna and the orphaned child she's dubbed "Christine"

Anna and the orphaned child she’s dubbed “Christine”

diary. If he finds any hints of Tatiana’s family’s location, he promises to give Anna the address, so they can care for the orphaned child.

What we soon find out is Semyon is no kind, old man; he is in fact the leading man behind London’s Russian mafia. His drunken lout of a son Kirill (Vincent Cassel) can hardly be trusted to carry out small tasks for his father, what with his irascible nature and inattention to detail. If not for Kirill’s focused driver, Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen), Kirill probably wouldn’t get anything done.

Anna’s persistence in finding a home for the orphaned child quickly embroils her into this underworld of angry, tattooed

Ummmmmmmm, why don't you want to watch this?

Ummmmmmmm, why don’t you want to watch this?

men with agendas she can’t even begin to understand. As we watch the story unfold, a voice-over of Tatiana’s diary tells us of her perception of London: she’ll make her uncle’s monthly salary in just one day at this restaurant; London is the world of the future. Like A History of Violence, things aren’t what they seem, and dreams don’t turn out like we’d hoped.

The film offers much more, from Kirill’s stifled homosexuality to a document of the meaning behind Russian prison tattoos (Mortensen and Cronenberg watched Alix Lambert’s Mark of Cain to study up for this film; if this topic is interesting at all to you, watch it). I’ve admitted before to having a soft spot for Viggo Mortensen, but seriously, he is so damn good in this, watching this is worth it just for his performance alone.


2 Responses to “Eastern Promises (2007)”

  1. 1 ladyfaceladyface
    January 24, 2013 at 6:56 am

    I’ve seen this! I have seen this movie! You have no idea how exciting this is for me.

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