Post 800! Eastern Promises

Tuesday, December 25, 2007
There were a few hours after opening cat presents before getting picked up for the turkey day festivities so I sat myself down and watched a movie. Who knew that Eastern Promises was set at Christmas time? What a perfect combination. As many of you know, I'm not a big David Cronenberg fan. In fact I've seen very few of his films - most of them just seemed to bizarre even for my unique tastes. However, I've heard nothing but positive things about Eastern Promises so I decided to give it a go. Both Shea and Adam gave it a thumbs up. I was not disappointed. It combined three of my favourite cinematic elements: violence, Russian baddies, and Vincent Cassel.

A pregnant Russian teenager collapses in a pharmacy and is rushed to a hospital where she dies. The baby, however, is saved. One of the nurses on duty finds a diary in the girl's bag which she hopes will offer clues to the girl's identity. To translate the diary, the nurse enlists the services of a Russian restaurant owner who's business card was found inside and ends up starting off a violent chain of events as the Russian mob tries to silence the nurse and get rid of the baby which could be the downfall of one of the mob's most powerful bosses.

That's pretty much all I feel safe saying about the plot in case you haven't seen it. There are a number of twists and turns in this great film that giving anything away would possibly ruin it for viewers. There were two big issues a number of people had about the film which I found to be highly over blown: the full male nudity and the violence.

1. The Violence: yes it was violent. However, I didn't find it nearly as bad as people made it out to be. There was one scene which made me turn away (ie the opening scene in the barber shop) but after that the violence was nowhere near as graphic as what I've seen in other films. Punches, kicks, a couple of stabs. You'll see that on television and frankly CSI is far more explicit in what it shows than the violence Cronenberg has chosen to portray.

2. Male Nudity: yes, you can make out Viggo Mortensen's meat and hairy veg but so what? The shots that you do see are all fast motion shots and you can't really make out anything distinct. If he was standing still and the camera zoomed in on his weiner as he's pleasuring himself, ok...then I can see people who might be bothered by this. Why is it that we're so bothered by nudity? The human body is a beautiful thing regardless of size, shape, colour, decoration of choice, or degree of hairiness. And why is that it's socially acceptable to show full female nudity but not male? Sexist pigs.

I was surprised that I enjoyed this movie. As I said, while I have no problem with violence, I'm not a Cronenberg fan. I was a bit put off by the ending...happy (relatively) endings don't always work for me. Real life endings sometimes make a good movie great. There is a surprise twist in regards to Mortensen's character which I won't discuss but it never really went anywhere. It explained certain events in the movie but then that was it. Pfffft. The fact that Cronenberg used the Russian mob was perfect for me. With the end of the Cold War and the rise of anti-Islamic sentiment in the Western World (but not in all of us, thank goodness) we don't see much of the Russians or other Eastern European/former bloc members anymore. And we're given a small peek into the underground world of Russian mobsters and prison culture which many folks are not that familiar with.

Overall, I'd give this a 3.5 pirate treasure chests out of 5. I didn't really buy either Cassel or Mortensen as Russian but all in all it was well acted and a great story. Armin Mueller-Stahl was absolutely perfect as the restaurant owner/mob boss.

Captain Recommended.


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I've been looking forward to seeing this and I'll pick it up next week at Blockbuster. Thanks for the recommend.

SME said...

Happy 800th post and a Happy Happy Christmastime too!!

This looks like a good one; Cronenberg's a fave of mine, even if he's a little over-the-top with the guts-n-gore sometimes. At least he always has a fascinating story to tell, and tells it well!

Randal Graves said...

I absolutely loved it. Ugh, I feel so dirty now. My biggest problem with the movie wasn't the ambiguity - aside from the faux-happy ending - Nikolai realizes what a fucking world of lunacy he's the central player in now- but that it was too short. I would've liked a bit more exploration of the world itself, some more interaction. It felt like a snapshot because I could've watched another two hours of it.

Sheamus the... said...

WHAT!!! YOU DIDNT BUY THEM AS RUSSIAN...oh man...i thought Viggo was the man...did you not see him put that cig out on his tongue?

Gardenia said...

This sounds like a wonderful movie! I will go as soon as I can.

There is going to be a show on with the guy who dresses people up - ah, the names elude me - with curvy women - about loving your body - I'm going to have to sit by the TV with a pencil and paper to get the title and the time!

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