Eastern Promises | Movie Reviews + Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
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Eastern Promises 

David Cronenberg's thriller-cum-character-study is a dark morality play complete with angels, devils and an emerging savior.

 

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 The diary of a dead teen-age prostitute leads a midwife (Naomi Watts) into the shadowy world of London's vory v zakone, or Russian organized crime, a diasporic culture nimbly adjusting to the very worst aspects of an open society. Her concern and blithe impulsiveness provide the catalyst to the film's real drama -- a three-way power struggle between the avuncular but bloodless paterfamilias (Armin Mueller-Stahl), his weak son, Kirill (Vincent Cassel) and Kirill's driver, Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen). Penned by Steven Knight, David Cronenberg's thriller-cum-character-study is a dark morality play -- occurring, naturally, at Christmas, and involving a stray infant -- complete with angels, devils and an emerging savior. For a Cronenberg flick about a violent subculture, the film is surprisingly restrained, despite a couple of gruesome scenes involving cutting implements. Mortensen's sardonic, enigmatic Nikolai owns the story -- and this film. His sleek, serpentine Nikolai -- who even sports tattooed markings warning "beware" -- lies coiled, coolly observant and unreadable: ready to strike or slither away. In English, and Russian, with subtitles.

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