BLU-RAY/DVD REVIEWS

003797Reviews & Counting
SEARCH BY TITLE # A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Eastern Promises
DVD disk
01.08.2008 By: Jason Adams
Eastern Promises order
Director:
David Cronenberg

Actors:
Viggo Mortensen
Naomi Watts
Vincent Cassel

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

star Printer-Friendly version
comment
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
After a pregnant girl dies during labor, a London midwife uses her diary to track down a living relative to take the baby. Eventually, this unwittingly leads her to the local Russian mob and a mysterious man who has his own secrets.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
EASTERN PROMISES is an engaging mystery hidden within a character-driven drama and at times an effective thriller. Like director David Cronenberg’s A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, his latest film moves at a somewhat slower pace yet still retains an involving sense of intrigue. This is definitely one movie built around subtlety. It may seem like not a whole lot happens in the hour and forty minutes, but there is a ton of stuff going on under the surface waiting to be unpacked and examined. PROMISES would much rather present the audience with its characters, not the judgment. There aren’t any good guys per se, no cliché villains, not even an overtly obvious protagonist; simply people who exist in their own world of personal motivations, not one concerned with likability. That’s not to say characters aren’t relatable, just that Cronenberg is too preoccupied with telling the story at hand and cultivating a somber, gritty mood to care whether or not you root for Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts to fall in love Hollywood-style.

It’s a film quite different than what we’ve seen from the director before, but his unique sensibilities are still noticeable throughout. The way EASTERN PROMISES confronts and plays with personal identity seems to recall one Cronenberg’s favorite themes. The use of tattoos as personal markers is fascinating, providing a visual stimulus as well as a way to silently give background to a character. Even the bare plot itself deals with transplanted immigrant culture and the struggle for identity that arises, which Cronenberg uses to showcase the interesting predicament of being an outsider, but also wielding a dangerous amount of power. (Not to mention you have a cast that includes American, French, Australian and German actors.) And as it was with HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, this is a movie as much about sexuality as it is about violence. Cassel’s closeted son, Mortensen’s brothel initiation, the act that sets the plot in motion—all are vital pieces of the puzzle. And sure, some of the violence is shocking and graphic, but so is, for example, Mortensen’s much hyped naked steamroom fight. It’s definitely a hard scene to watch, not just because of all the painful flopping around of dangly appendages, but it’s just a brutal fight, and Mortensen’s au naturel state adds a rawness and a vulnerability that sets it apart from other normal brawls.

As much as this is a Cronenberg film through and through, it wouldn’t work as well without the solid performances. Naomi Watts gives a good amount of depth to a character who mainly pushes the plot along. Cassel is an adequately slimy gangster. Armin Mueller-Stahl works as both a warm gentleman and a cold mob boss. But it’s Viggo Mortensen who really shines, in a role that’s much different than we’ve seen of him before. His gravelly-voiced henchman is just a cool character who almost feels like he belongs in a film noir. But more than that, Mortensen immerses himself in a rather dark performance to the point of complete believability (and what my Eastern European friend swears is a good Russian accent). And if Halle Berry can win an Oscar for getting naked, than Mortensen should get two or three for his cringe-worthy full-frontal fight.
THE EXTRAS
The two features here are more than welcome, but still left me wanting, especially a commentary from at least Cronenberg and Mortensen.

Secrets and Stories (10:31): Some behind the scenes shots and interesting trivia thrown in from interviews, but a good chunk of it is the actor’s summing up their characters and the film’s plot.

Marked For Life (6:42): A quick but fascinating look at the use of tattoos in the film, from what they mean and the culture they represent to their physical application.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
EASTERN PROMISES is another reminder of how great a storyteller and effective a filmmaker David Cronenberg can be. And if this and A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE mark a new direction and resurgence in the man’s career, then count me in. The DVD is technically sound, but such a complex and interpretive movie deserves a more in-depth treatment.

Extra Tidbit: To prepare for his role, Viggo Mortensen actually traveled to Russia and wandered around without assistance to absorb the culture and language.
Strikeback
Not registered? Sign-up!
Or

Best Selling

| March 2017 More Best Selling
  • 1
    Fantastic Beasts
  • 2
    Sing
  • 3
    Moana
  • 4
    Doctor Strange
  • 5
    Fifty Shades Darker

Featured Youtube Videos

Views and Counting