Thursday, February 5, 2009

Eastern Promises. A-

'Eastern Promises,' is about the Mafia, yes, but, though you might expect it to be the Italian Mafia, it's not. Rather, director David Cronenberg (A History of Violence) gives us a chilling portrait of the Russian Mafia in London. Not only is this an extremely entertaining movie, but it is also an exquisite peice of filmmaking. Though it isn't epic enough to be possessing of the potential 'timeless' quality, 'Eastern Promises' may still be talked about in twenty years as one of the better mafia movies in the cinema. Naomi Watts plays Anna Khitrova, a young nurse who helps deliver a 14 year old girl's baby. The girl dies soon afterward. Anna finds a diary in her handbag, but it is written in Russian and she can't read it. After examining the body, she discovers that the girl had been injected with heroin shots and been raped as well. A card in the girl's handbag leads Anna to a restaurant owned by Semyon, (Armin Mueller-Stahl) who is also a Russian mob boss. Anna doesn't really care who is the good and who is bad. She simply wants to find our who hurt the girl and where her parents are so she can find a home for the baby. After dealing with Semyon, she meets Nikolai Luzhin (Viggo Mortensen) the driver and bodyguard of Semyon's son Kirill, (Vincent Cassel) who is, to put it simply, a roué. The way Anna and the mob connect is brought out in a series of masterfully crafted events. Nikolai is an interesting character. Semyon obviously trusts him more than he trusts his son. And though Nikolai is violent, he possesses a certain calmness/kindness when he is around Anna. Though Mortensen and Mueller-Stahl both shine, there are also two nice supporting roles from Sinead Cusack, who plays Anna's mother, Helen, and Jerzy Skolemowski, who portrays Anna's uncle Stepan. There are a few flaws in the film, mainly with characters. It seemed as though Anna would be more hesitant in dealing with the mafia, and Nikolai, though a strong character, was confusing at times because we aren't certain how good or how evil he actually is. Also, though I liked this movie extremely, I did not love it like I hoped I would. I think the running time and the lack of a truly intricate plot kept me from doing so. But this movie is really more about the look and feel of Russian mafia than anything else. When the movie is over you will likely like it, and if you don't, you will at least be able to say you were entertained by it. I can promise you that.

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