EASTERN PROMISES is a bonafide masterpiece that sees the maestro completing a loose trilogy that he began with Spider and continued with A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE.
Cronenberg’s early films focused on the transformation of the physical form, the metamorphosis of human beings externally reflecting the failings both within their form and their psyche.
With Eastern Promises, the director turns his razor sharp focus to the duality of one man and the change it brings; the effects are not as immediately apparent yet they are no less brutal or frightening. Nikolai (Mortensen) works for a notorious Russian criminal organisation that acts without mercy.
Operating out of London, it’s involved in every criminal activity conceivable, from drugs to prostitution and more. When a dead teen’s diary ends up in midwife Anna’s (Watts) possession, it becomes inevitable that her and Nikolai’s paths will cross, however, no-one can anticipate the violent and brutal result of this unavoidable collision.
A classic criminal story on its surface, Cronenberg builds a brutal complexity, layer by layer, that reflects upon all the characters. Mortensen is on superb form during a savage bathhouse brawl whilst Watts more than holds her own in a role that requires her to imbue the character with the right balance of chutzpah and humanity.
Add to the mix Vincent Cassel’s frighteningly unpredictable Kirrill and Armin Muehller-Stahl’s quietly menacing Semyon and you have what is undoubtedly one of the finest films in the maestro’s oeuvre.
Director: David Cronenberg