Eastern Promises – David Cronenberg – A consistently compelling portrayal of a criminal Russian contingent in London; a world of unforgiving rites, black trade and killing in which (like true cinematic Mafia communities) the family reigns supreme. The story takes shape around a midwife (Naomi Watts) who, after delivering the child of a teenage prostitute (who herself dies in labour), translates the girl’s diary and begins to uncover the covert violence and horror that resides behind the legitimacy of a London restaurant.
Viggo Mortensen acts icy criminal efficiency with unnerving aplomb, his restrained and unmoved demeanor hinting at a vast wealth of frightening experience and equally frightening capabilities. Also, a pretty impressively vile turn from Vincent Cassel as the son of the established Mob father-encapsulating a repulsive amalgam of embitterment, neglect and the twisted rage of his own evident impotence (be it sexual or authoritative). Cronenberg’s portrayal of a complex male relationship, simmering with the jealousy and unrequited homosexuality of Cassel’s character and the unreadable power of Mortensen, is a fascinating and dramatic triumph. The hard Russian exterior provides Cronenberg with a characteristic conveniantly akin to his own developed cinematic expression of cold or detached emotional expression (most recently magnified in the stylized confinement of Cosmopolis).
There is one particularly climactic scene (outside the bounds of character development) that takes place in the steamed tile interior of a Public bath-house: a naked Viggo manges to (convincingly) survive a knife wielding attack from two gang members, the visceral and unrelenting violence (not celebratory horror gore- instead very real, unsensationalised, but nonetheless punishing physical savagery) of the scene works incredibly well as a shocking and admittedly very exciting sequence.7/10