Reviewed by: Steven Warburton
|Featuring||Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Sinead Cusack|
|Director||David Cronenberg (“A History of Violence”—2005)|
|Producer||Stephen Garrett, Paul Webster, Robert Lantos|
“Every sin leaves a mark.”
Movies like “Eastern Promises” occupy something of a moral quagmire. We live on planet Earth, a world which—according to St. Augustine—is populated by sinners and saints. Human nature is evil. You don’t even need the Bible to tell you that. All you need is the morning papers.
The characters in “Eastern Promises” are also evil, and the movie doesn’t flinch in depicting the extent of how fallen people are.
The plot: A 14-year-old girl bleeds to death while giving birth. A nurse takes the girl’s diary, which leads her to get involved with a Russian mafia family.
We meet three members of this group of mafiosos, a ruthless father, his equally brutal son, and their “driver” (who may not be what he appears.) At first, the father is very kind to the nurse, but he slowly become more malevolent when he realizes that the diary implicates him.
There are two shockingly violent scenes in the movie—one where a man gets his throat slit in a barber’s chair and the other when Viggo Mortensen engages in a brutal knife fight with two gangsters in a Russian bath house. Viggo does the scene totally naked, by the way, and there are brief flashes of full frontal nudity.
There’s another scene where Viggo’s character is more or less forced into having sex with a prostitute. This scene is not very erotic. Both characters are obviously comfortable with the act, making it feel more pathetic and sad than it does pornographic. There’s a scene later when Viggo gives the prostitute some money and a religious tract. Touching as it may be, I wouldn’t recommend this as a witnessing technique.
A note on the profanity: Sometimes it’s over the top, but there are no instances of Jesus’s name being taken in vain, and, if I recall correctly, no mentions of God in a disrespectful tone either. There are a few f-words, but I’d rather hear the F-word 5,000 times in a row than hear the name of Christ taken in vain once. By the way, the film’s writer, Steve Knight, also wrote the recent movie “Amazing Grace.”
Watching “Eastern Promises,” I was reminded of “Goodfellas.” Here are two movies about life in the mob and the luxuries that a life of crime can provide. But far from being advocates of these lifestyles, the films show that the good times do not last long, that you can get taken out at any second for virtually any reason at all.
“Eastern Promises” shows human nature as it really is.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.