Plot: A Russian teenager living in London who dies during childbirth leaves clues to a midwife in her journal that could tie her child to a rape involving a violent Russian mob family.
So far ahead of and beyond A History of Violence in my opinion, Eastern Promises is the incredibly realistic portrait of the Russian Mafia. Director David Cronenberg even went so far as to use the actual detailed tattoos that the Russian mafia members have.
Viggo Mortensen could have easily walked away with the Best Actor Oscar for his dedicated performance as Nikolai Luzhin, the mafia family’s stoic personal driver, who also serves partially as their cleaner – the man who dumps or hides murdered bodies. Daniel Day Lewis should have and did win of course, but Viggo was the definite runner-up – giving what I personally think is a career-best performance. Naomi Watts could have easily at least been nominated for her terrific performance as Anna Khitrova, the British-Russian midwife who found Tatiana’s journal and decided to investigate her story. Vincent Cassel also gives another fine performance as Kirill, Semyon’s abusive, violently unstable son. The cast could not have been any more perfect, giving a prime example for brilliant filmmaking and displaying a shockingly realistic portrait of the Russian Mafia.
Steven Knight, who wrote the brilliant “Dirty Pretty Things” and the pretty good thriller “Redemption”, wrote a career best screenplay here; a grimy, violent, ultra-realistic portrayal of criminals, violence, and sex trafficking. The characters never once felt phony, the dialogue was always fresh and inspired, and the huge twist was shocking and unexpected. In my opinion, this is the finest mob film of the decade, only slightly topping “The Departed” and “Animal Kingdom”.
This is easily David Cronenberg’s best, and most consistent, film. Like I stated before, this movie is eons better than A History of Violence, in my opinion. His signature stylish direction shines through the grime of the realistic characters, never shying away from the disturbing and brutal violence. I’d like to commend him again for his use of the Russian Mafia tattoos, which made this ultra-realistic movie even more genuine.
In conclusion, “Eastern Promises” is a movie that should definitely be on everyone’s must see list if they haven’t already seen it, it’s a gripping, ultra-realistic, violent and refreshingly original approach to the mob film sub-genre. Like I said, it is the finest mob film of its decade (2000-2010), and it’s easily David Cronenberg’s best work (even though I rated a few other of his films with the same score). I highly recommend it!
My Rating: 10/10!
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