365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

28Jun/110

Eastern Promises (2007)

Eastern Promises was David Cronenberg's follow up to his critically acclaimed breakout directorial hit, 2005's A History of Violence. A History of Violence was a bit overrated in my opinion and William Hurt being nominated for a best supporting actor for his ten minutes of screen time was a bit of a joke.  However, Viggo Mortenson was terrific in his role in that movie and his work in Eastern Promises is nothing short of stellar.

Mortenson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Road) stars as Nikolai Luzhin, a member of the Vory V Zakone family of the Russian mafia. More specifically, Luzhin works as the loyal family driver to Seymon (Armin Mueller-Stahl - Angels and Demons, The International) and his son Kirill (Vincent Cassel - Black Swan, Oceans 13) intent on working his way higher and higher into the family business. He is calm, cool, and collected. While quietly vying for the attention of Seymon, he perfectly balances the flamboyant and careless Kirill perfectly.

Despite Luzhin's outward lack of emotion, and more specifically empathy, we slowly are made aware that he has a more genuine and compassionate side. We see this through his interactions with Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts - King Kong, The Ring) who plays a midwife at a downtown London hospital. Khitrova's character is brought into the fold when she discovers a diary of a patient of hers who dies while giving birth. Khitrova, initially intent on having the diary translated so she could find out more about the baby's family and perhaps find a relative rather than put the baby up for adoption, discovers something more and is unable keep herself out of the situation despite warnings from both her family as well as the Vory V Zakone family.

There is a twist to the story that I will discuss below. I will caution you with a spoiler alert at that time. Before getting to that though I wanted to note that I thought Naomi Watts was miscast as Khitrova. Watts is an extremely established actress and the fact that such a great actress was in this movie resulted in more of the story revolving around her character. Her character is an important part of the film, but by having so many scenes centered around her, I thought it took away from other parts of the story that could have been better built up.

SPOILER ALERT
We learn three-quarters of the way through the movie that Luzhin is actually an informant. The reveal occurs rather quickly with Luzhin convincing his boss that, despite almost being beat to death, to not be pulled from the case because he is so deep in the organization. There is no more mention of this brief scene during the rest of the movie. The last scene in the movie perhaps suggests that Luzhin was a double-agent and that he is now king of the empire. I don't think that this scene needed to be revealed. It was almost as if the director couldn't see the audience buying into Luzhin's character as being a sympathetic character without throwing this wrinkle in. It is stated quite a few times throughout the moive how Luzhin had committed some considerably awful crimes in his time and, because of this, maybe he couldn't have a compasionate side on his own.

In actuality, perhaps if he had witnessed or learned about something so bad and so serious, his character could such a situation with compassion and humanity. I thought this would have made him a far more complex character, worthy of more discussion.

Plot 8.5/10
Character Development 8.5/10
Character Chemistry 8.5/10
Acting 9/10
Screenplay 9/10
Directing 9/10
Cinematography 8.5/10
Sound 8.5/10
Hook and Reel 7.5/10
Universal Relevance 7.5/10
83.5%

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