Review: "Eastern Promises" | Rock Candy

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Review: "Eastern Promises"

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

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

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Lindsey Millar

  • The Trouble Brewing in the LRSD Edition

    The potential coming conflict between the Hutchinson administration and the Little Rock Education Association, a federal court ruling on student transfers and allegations of another debtor’s prison — all covered on this week's podcast.
    • Aug 10, 2018
  • The Throw the Bums Out Editions

    The term limit ballot measure, which qualified for the ballot today; differences emerging among Little Rock mayoral candidates; and the unflattering Little Rock connection in Brett Kavanaugh’s past — all covered on this week's podcast.
    • Aug 3, 2018
  • An ISP to love

    Hyperleap offers no-hassle, blazing internet speeds.
    • Jul 26, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Coming Monday: Little Rock Black Restaurant Week

    MoTown Monday is Ceci's Chicken and Waffles. Tasty Tuesday is Sims BBQ and Brewster's Soul Food Cafe. Wing Wednesday is Chicken King and Chicken Wangs. Soul Food Thursday is Lindsey's BBQ and Hospitality House and Food Truck Festival Friday is @station801. It's the first Black Restaurant Week.
    • Mar 8, 2017
  • New music from Isaac Alexander

    New music from Isaac Alexander.
    • Jul 14, 2017
  • No Small Talk Ep. 8: Katy Henriksen, Springs Arts preview

    A packed episode this week of "No Small Talk": a chat with Katy Henriksen, from Of Note on KUAF; Stephanie Smittle breaks down the Spring Arts issue; and we finish up with just a tiny bit of Oscar chatter.
    • Mar 9, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation