Thursday, September 20, 2007

Review: "Eastern Promises"

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2007 at 2:09 PM

click to enlarge unknown.jpg

"Eastern Promises" is not the movie you think it is. For a crime drama, it's strangely bloodless. But it's a David Cronenberg movie, so there's a good deal of bodily harm, not to mention fluids. For a tale of immigration, or of cultural history, it's not particularly well-shaded: few of the Russians or Chechens involved go far beyond Secret Squirrel. Yet, its history is impeccably researched, right down to the shading on the prison tattoos. Somewhere between these two frayed threads (and a truly surprising twist ending), you get a fascinating story of personal displacement – displacement from home, from the law, even from the body you walk in. There's just not enough of it.

Anna (Naomi Watts), a half-Russian nurse midwife encounters the ruthless, if courtly Russian mobster Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen) in investigating the diary of a dead Russian child prostitute, encountered during an emergency birth. The diary is a near manifest of rape, drugging and coercion, events that implicate and could prove damaging to mob boss Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and his son, Kirill (Vincent Cassell), who've got bigger, Chechen fish to fry. Both of these events provide a mounting, visceral tension to the proceedings, culminating in a brutal (if deft) nude fight scene in a Russian bath. You wouldn't expect this to be the film's short treatise on how history and emotion are written on the body, but I remind you, this is by a director who made a movie about identical twin gynecologists.

This discussion muddles the real question – is it worth watching? It is, but you might feel let down. There's a lot to like about the writing, photography and score (spare, thoughtful, often lyrical), and the acting is almost top notch. Forget the bad poetry and “Lord of the Rings,” Viggo Mortensen is absolutely flawless, delivering a chameleon-like performance you'd expect from an actor with much more to prove. He's doubly impressive against a scene-chewing Vincent Cassel, and a somewhat sleepy Mueller-Stahl.

But my complaint still remains. This is a short movie. Certainly spare, possibly economical but more than that, sparse. I don't want to spoil the ending, but it is to say the least, a striking reversal. It's the kind of reversal that asks for a little time for reconsideration, but ends up leaving you a bit hungry. Maybe the anxiety that follows is part of the point – this isn't the feel good hit of the summer, after all.
Fritz Brantley


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Lindsey Millar

Readers also liked…

  • Raborn reflects on Italy, at Boswell Mourot DATE CHANGE

    It's a quick show, so don't put it off: "An Italy Experience: Reflections on the Past and Present," figurative work by Laura Raborn, is at Boswell Mourot Fine Art Feb. 28 through March 5. March 21-April 2.
    • Mar 18, 2015
  • V.L. Cox's "River Bridge" coming to South on Main

    Come snow or whatever, V.L. Cox will unveil her monumental painting "River Bridge" at South on Main on Thursday. The event runs 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the happening restaurant at 1304 Main St.
    • Mar 2, 2015
  • Listen to Lo Thraxx's new mixtape, 'Sharkansas'

    "Sharkansas," the new mixtape from Little Rock rapper Lo Thraxx has been one of our most anticipated local releases of the year, and it's out as of this afternoon. It features Two 9's Curtis Williams, Raz Fresco, Houston rappers Doeman and Roosh Williams, plus production by Fresco Grey, Trakksounds and others.
    • Mar 13, 2015

Most Shared

Visit Arkansas

Logoly State Park dedicates new visitors center

Logoly State Park dedicates new visitors center

Arkansas’s first environmental education state park interprets the importance of the natural world and our place within it.

Most Recent Comments



© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation