Review: Eastern Promises

I honestly have to say that when an opportunity presented itself for me to watch 'Eastern Promises', I had a sense of dread creeping through my mind. It is not because I dislike drama films, heck no, far from it. The problem was that this film is a David Cronenberg film. Yes, David at one point was a master that brought us movies that was fresh, thought-provoking and saw things from a different perspective. Movies like ‘A History of Violence’, ‘Spider’ and the excellent ‘eXistenZ’ was the brilliant streak Cronenberg created that mesmerized the film world with its brain teasing plots, odd storylines and richness in meaning underneath the stories that his movies provided. But considering what David had to play with in ‘Eastern Promises’, I feared for the worst. And sad to say, my fears were realized.

In short, the story involves Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts), who finds a foreign language diary by the bedside of a teen that died while giving birth. Eager to return the new-born baby back to the family owning it, she leaves for the address that was attached to a card found inside the diary, and her good-will decision leads her into an unavoidable entanglement with the violent world of the Russian Mafia.

I will not describe in detail about the plot, because I honestly lost track of it mid-way through the first 10 minutes. It is not because it was boring, but it was because the foreign accents was so thick, I wish I had the luxury of a DVD remote control in the cinema hall to turn on the sub titles. The translation provided by the movie (Chinese and BM) did not help either as I bet the translators was as confused as I am. From whatever plot that I can gather, I still had no clear clue as to why the Russian mob so desperately wants the baby and no clear indication on why the people in this film did the things they did. Some might think this is intriguing, but even when the movie was over, there was no clear explanation to any of the things that had occurred. Blimey. But on the bright side, all this did however shed light and insight into the illegal workings of the Russian mob underground, which was interesting, if not disturbing.

But the quality to look-out for is definitely Viggo Mortensen, playing the character of a driver for one of the mob leaders. His cool and collected demeanor throughout the film is relishing, and his work definitely deserved the ‘Best Actor’ nomination that was bestowed to him from the Academy Awards. But it must be said that other actors in the film, such as Vincent Cassel, Armin Mueller-Stahl, and Naomi Watts was commendable in their roles too and the director did a stupendous job in providing an overall quality of acting that have heightened the value of this film to another level.

I guess the excellent form of David Cronenberg will diminish at some point in time and I am afraid the form had halted right here. Yes, he did provide us with excellent acting from his palette of talented actors in this film, but overall, his usual flair and magnetism from his usual works is lacking in obvious quantities in ‘Eastern Promises’. But sometimes one bad apple does not make the whole bunch rotten, so I bet David will return in full force in the future, he can and he will, and that is a promise.

Verdict: 5 / 10

Reviewed by: Raymond Choy


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