VOD film review: Eastern Promises
James R | On 02, May 2017
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassell
Watch Eastern Promises online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
After the accomplished A History of Violence, it came as no surprise that director David Cronenberg would want to reunite with leading man Viggo Mortensen. Again probing the psychological depths of a dangerous mind, their second colloboration meditates upon identity with another London-set tale, Eastern Promises. Anna (Watts) is a midwife. She helps deliver the baby of Tatiana, a young Russian girl who dies during childbirth. Along with the infant, Tatiana leaves behind a diary, which Anna uses to locate Tatiana’s nearest living relatives. The only problem is that it’s in Russian.
Inside, she finds the address of a local Russian restaurant and goes there to obtain help with translation. In doing so, she unwittingly stumbles into the midst of Semyon, Russian Mafia overlord and damn good chef. After sampling his borscht, she bumps into Nikolai (Mortensen), the ruthless driver for Semyon’s wayward son, Kirill (Cassell). Needless to say, Anna’s actions uncover incriminating evidence and soon she lands herself in a whole heap of trouble.
Despite there being only occasional outbursts of violence, Eastern Promises has a brutal edge that forever lingers in the background. Whether it’s a barbershop throat-slitting or a naked knife tussle, the fighting is always graphic and disturbing. Covered in tattoos, Nikolai’s identity is burnt into his flesh, smeared with the blood of the people he dispatches. Beneath the surface, however, lies a calculating mind that seems to feel sympathy for no-one.
Naomi Watts is believable as the innocent yet determined midwife, partnering with Viggo to anchor an essentially flawed construct – social services would surely have intervened about 10 minutes into proceedings. The cast’s chemistry is gripping and tense, even though not a single one of them is Russian. Accents and plot-holes aside, though, this is a captivating film located far away from the usual chocolate-box shots of the capital.
Eastern Promises is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.