Thursday, November 15, 2007

Eastern Promises (2007)

There's two films warring it out within the skin of David Cronenberg's mobsters-and-tattoos extravaganza. One is a righteously indignant slice of vaguely boring social-problem drama in the vein of screenwriter Steven Knight's Dirty Pretty Things; the other is a wired, black-hued comedy of mobster manners. Guess which one wins out. It's entertaining enough for a while anyway, mainly on the strength of Viggo Mortensen and Vincent Cassel's high-camp high-wire act as, respectively, a beefy chauffeur/bodyguard trying to crack his way into the upper echelons of the Russian Mafia and his neurotically violent, possibly homosexually enamored confidante and sponsor. The last twenty minutes, though, allow the A-plot, wherein plucky and determined nurse Naomi Watts (never duller) does everything she can to uncover to story behind an orphaned baby and her teenage mother, who bled to death in labor on Watts's surgery table, to take the reins and ride roughshod over all the interesting bits. Consequently, characterizations and plot points shift on a dime; the scene with Cassel crying at the river might be the worst thing I've seen in a movie all year, and the big twist is not only stupid but stupid, pointless and almost entirely unnecessary. The last shot consciously echoes Cronenberg and Mortensen's previous collaboration A History of Violence; unfortunately, doing so only points up what a botch this new film is in comparison.

Grade: C+


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