Friday, 9 October 2009


Despite his following, David Cronenberg has always remained on my "very interesting list" and EASTERN PROMISES, despite its critical reception, does nothing to change my estimation. The film has three strong performances at its centre - Viggo Mortesson, Vincent Cassell and Armin Mueller-Stahl. Mortesson is the friend/driver for the son of a Russian Mafia boss in London, Cassell is the son, while Mueller-Stahl is the father. While the film concentrates on the relationship between these characters it is totally gripping. Unfortunately the main plot of the film concerns a mid-wife trying to track down the family of a young Russian girl who dies while giving birth. Her search brings her into contact with the Voy - the Russian Mafia. I found the performance by Naomi Watts less than charismatic and the coincidence of her being half Russian (one of several rather contrived coincidences surrounding her character) hard to take. The biggest problem for me is that the film lacks any real climax - the scene involving the rescue of a baby with Mortesson and Watts riding to the rescue on a motorbike is quite laughable and the decision to only refer to the imminent fall of the Russian godfather rather than actually show it is dramatically so unsatisfying that the film seems to just fizzle out. A shame because Mortesson gives a terrific understated performance (although the revelation that comes near the end of the film tends to negate everything that has gone before) which in its turn is overshadowed by German actor Armin Mueller-Stahl as the gang boss whose introduction as a kindly restaurant owner hides the true evil of the character.He stole the film for me, Famous Polish film director Jerzy Skolmoski plays Watts' uncle and the eagle eyed with spot ex-pop singer/film director Mike Sarne in a small role. Lots of good stuff here, often superbly done, but the construction frustratingly nearly sinks what could have been a terrific film rather that just terrific bits. Rating *** (original rating was ** but I upgraded it on a second viewing and added a new last sentence to my review).

No comments: