Wednesday 15 July 2009

Eastern Promises (2007) - ickleReview (DVD)

A British-made Russian mafia movie set in London by the makers of A History of Violence (2005). A midwife (Naomi Watts) gets involved with Russian gangsters when a young prostitute dies during childbirth leaving behind a diary in Russian, which implicates members of the ruling mafia family. Viggo Mortensen plays the ruthless driver and hitman, a real bad-ass. Armin Mueller-Stahl is the menacing godfather figure.

It plays with some of the clichés of the modern gangster movie genre (I'm thinking The Godfather trilogy (1972-90) and Goodfellas (1990) rather than The Public Enemy (1931) and Scarface (1932)) but it is refreshing to have a new setting (London) and a different kind of gangster culture (Russian). The tattoos they have tell their life story and play a significant role in the plot. At times it's comical like a Guy Ritchie film with stereotypical baddies in black leather coats and non-Russian actors putting on that Russian accent. The plot feels predictable at times. I saw a number of things coming and was annoyed when a subtlety of the plot was reconfirmed in the dialogue in case anyone had missed it. That said, there were a few unexpected twists and a pleasingly ambiguous ending.

Nugget: shot inobtrusively with unflinching gorey scenes and an interesting take on twenty-first-century people-trafficking. It would be interesting to see a Russian-made mafia movie.

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