Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Drama,Thrillers Eastern Promises (2007)

Eastern Promises (2007)

David Cronenberg’s splendid direction of Steven Knight’s highly faceted screenplay grants stardom to the image building impact it creates for the role of Ekrem with the further chemistry Josef Altin contributes in his performance. Without such a gifted actor serving this role it would, as the script, be incredulous. For the heroics portrayed are enormous, but in ways so subtle, so self-evolving, as to be made credible only in keen perspective. The kind only dire circumstance, personal courage and cool-headedness under fire, can provide. Mr. Altin persuades us such a hero can be, and the writing provides a carefully constructed plot to allow its drama credence.

We will not find out all of what Ekrem is about, though we will abundantly be brought to want to know. As the story unfolds the viewer is left hoping something can be brought to challenge the machine-like ruthlessness that has begun to shape the events unfolding at the hands of the Vory v zakone (Russian organized crime syndicate) in one of it’s most appalling versions, that of the Izmailovskaya, or Moscow origin. Details, like identifying tattoos designating rank and “specialty” of the mob soldiers, membership ceremony, and clan rivalry are expressed far beyond the usually served stereotyping of Hollywood. So is the treachery and devious machination practiced at all levels and within and without each  “organization” or family. The boss here, Semyon, played grandly by the accomplished Armin Mueller-Stahl, is a monster wholly devoted to defeating any and all who inconvenience his plans, even his own son, even his infant daughter. Any that serve him, no matter how well, are easily sacrificed to his whim of expedience. But irony is about to have its way with him.

The lovely Naomi Watts plays Anna, surgical mid-wife in this English setting. Her concern and courage to protect a newborn from the same fate that has taken the infant’s mother give the film its dramatic start. Before long, in her investigation to find this baby’s relatives, she stumbles into an underworld for which she’s ill able to deal.

Semyon’s son, Kirill, played brilliantly by Vincent Cassel, is the overcompensating homosexual placed by his father as second in command of the family. Torn between what bit of human decency he has remaining and the dehumanization schooled him by father, Kirill is driven by alcoholism and exploitation of the women prostitutes the family has enslaved. It is his own unconscious disgust that makes him more and more influenced by the newbie Ekrem.

Without giving anymore away, this story is wonderful, with performances to match. Without resorting to the over-staged and incredible storyline of action movies, this film will keep you riveted to your seat none-the-less.

Not for children, has graphic love scene (of sorts) and partial nudity. Graphic killing, although that’s allowable (unless you object to new uses for wood knives.) Highly recommended and an obvious step-up to stardom for Josef Altin.

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