Eastern Promises
Viggo Mortensen will kill you and you will love it...

Acclaimed director David Cronenberg (The Fly, eXistenZ) has reunited with his A History of Violence star Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises, a compelling new thriller that co-stars Naomi Watts (The Painted Veil) and Vincent Cassel (The Crimson Rivers).

From a script by Steven Knight (Academy Award-nominated screenwriter of Dirty Pretty Things), Eastern Promises is a beautiful, intricate story about an enigmatic chauffeur. Okay, so maybe ‘chauffeur' was an understatement. The Russian-born Nikolai Luzhin (Mortensen) is a driver for one of London's most notorious organized crime families.

Business is as usual in the Vory V Zakone criminal brotherhood - well, as usual as business can be when you're working with assassins and reputed criminals. The film opens with a brash display of brutal bloodletting; a man going into a barbershop for a shave and getting his throat slit instead.

Between offing the opposition and dumping bodies in the river with pal Kirill (Cassel), Nikolai crosses paths with Anna Khitrova (Watts), a midwife at a North London hospital. Anna attends to a feeble hemorrhaging 14-year-old girl who dies while giving birth to a baby girl. Anna feels an immediate bond to the helpless infant who survived its bloody birth and attempts to trace her lineage.

It just so happens that some members of the Zakone mafia forced this 14-year-old into prostitution and a pesky drug addiction. Anna begins to search through the girl's personal diary to find any relatives who might be able to help. There's just one catch - it's written in Russian.

While delving into the secrets of this diary, Anna unknowingly hands it to the head of the Zakone family, Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl) who offers to translate it and give Anna an address of one of the baby's relatives.

As Anna continues to make inquiries about the girl's past, she unlocks a dark and ugly fury from within the Russian mob. Anna is in deep and now Nikolai finds his loyalties divided as the family tightens its grip on him.

Director David Cronenberg is a master craftsman and knows exactly how to explore the dark, seedy underworld of organized crime. The pace is slow but well balanced and consistently intriguing with each scene. We begin to grow more and more curious with Mortensen's character with each passing sequence - which include a nude fist fight in a bath house and his various intimidating encounters with civilians - those being outside the underground criminal structure.

Eastern Promises showcases Viggo Mortensen's ice-cold glares and steel silence in a way no other film has before. His acting chops are at full capacity here and if I had to bet, I'd say he should receive a couple of award nominations for his part here.

So there it is, a compelling thriller with a unnerving sense of realism (coupled with unapologetic violence) with intense, stirring performances and brilliant direction. What else could you want out of a late September cinematic escape?
Reviewed by: adam