A REVIEW BY GARY CHEW
David Cronenberg has a new film with an excellent and provocative title: "Eastern Promises." There's also an attractive and talented cast in the two lead characters: Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts. The story is quite seductive. A midwife is looking for the family of an underage female who has died giving birth on Christmas Eve. The surviving infant's mother had been held in prostitution by Russian mobsters.
Mortensen plays the chauffeur for the family, much like what you might see on "The Sopranos." His sinister accent is most definitely not like Joe Pantoliano's. The role also requires Viggo to "baby sit" the Michael Imperioli character of the piece (Vincent Cassel). Mortensen is quite convincing. Naomi plays her role straight ahead as the story lumbers along in modern day London. And that's about all I can say that's positive about the movie.
Cronenberg has directed Steven Knight's script into an unfortunately slow and sticky jumble of dark. Although Mortensen does well, the character is (as said in politics these days) flip-floppy, especially in his scenes with the mobster boss's son, mucho overplayed by Cassel. The Godfather, of sorts, is well-shaped by veteran actor, Armin Mueller-Stahl.
Alas, the accents employed by Mortensen, to some extent, and, especially, Cassel are so thick that an English-only speaker needs subtitles even when the dialogue is English. Stahl's accent was more difficult to my less sophisticated ears. Watts, as is always the case at least, presents herself with competence, seemingly phoning in the performance. There's not much for her to grab onto except the motor scooter she rides upon in the chill and dank of London.
Cronenberg gave a much better display of film savy with his most recent film, "A History of Violence" (reviewed by Chew in 2005). It has a stellar cast: Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt.
Oh, a couple of focus points may draw more viewers to "Eastern Promises." There are lots of tattoos as well as tattooing going on. And everyone gets to see a svelte and plentifully tattooed Viggo naked, fighting other bad guys (clothed) as he tries to relax in a sauna. How convenient; that way he didn't have to muss up his suit while shooting the scene. The cinematography and precise editing of this well-choreographed sequence are truly amazing, but will likely disappoint attending females.
Rated "R" for tattoos, motor scooters, sexy time stuff and sanguinarity.
Copyright © 2007, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.