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Eastern Promises Movie Poster

Eastern Promises
Four Stars
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Rated: R
Directed by:
David Cronenberg
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel,
Armin Mueller-Stahl, Sinead Cusack
Released by: Focus Films

In Short: Russian gangsters, prostitutes, newborn babies and moments of extreme violence meld into a completely satisfying thriller that's not for the faint of heart.

Harsh Promises
Gangsters, Russian Style
By Jenny Peters

From its opening moments, “Eastern Promises” makes it clear that it is a film that is not for the faint of heart. Violent, brutal and disturbing, director David Cronenberg (“A History of Violence”) pulls no punches in this brilliantly-crafted tale of London’s Russian mafia and the “godfather” who controls it.

The impossibly handsome Viggo Mortensen stars as Nikolai, driver and henchman to the mob’s head man (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and best pal to his wigged-out son (Vincent Cassel). Their racketeering, dope dealing and pimping businesses are threatened when a young prostitute dies giving birth, leaving behind an incriminating diary and a baby girl. The nurse (Naomi Watts) who helps save the child follows the diary’s clues straight into their ultra-dangerous criminal world, where a series of breathtaking events take place.

Viggo Mortensen and Armin Mueller-Stahl in Eastern Promises
Naomi Watts in Eastern Promises

Cronenberg and company deftly tell this compelling tale filled with twists and turns, mysteries and conspiracies, successfully keeping the audience guessing right up to the closing frames. It’s a well-crafted script, enhanced by the completely believable performances given by every actor in the cast.

Mortensen proves once again that he is a chameleon, completely unrecognizable as the ruthless gangster with a flawless Russian accent. It’s a performance deserving of an Oscar nomination, an accolade that has so far eluded the deserving actor. Naomi Watts proves her 2004 nomination was no fluke, offering a very real and nuanced take on a woman who finds herself way over her head in a very dangerous world. And French actor Vincent Cassel (“Ocean’s Twelve”) is brilliant as the screwed up son of the ruthless kingpin.

Vincent Cassel in Eastern Promises
Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts in Eastern Promises

“Eastern Promises” delivers on every level, and is worth the price of admission alone for one eye-popping sequence that takes place in the Russian baths. Don’t miss this one, unless you are squeamish when it comes to violence.

(Updated 09/14/07 NJ)

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