head head head
Home Contact RSS Feed
DVD Review: Eastern Promises
Empress Eve   |  @   |  

Eastern Promises DVDEastern Promises
Directed by David Cronenberg
Starring Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel, Armin Muller-Stahl
Rated R
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Available Dec. 23, 2007

Following in the vein of his previous crime thriller A History of Violence, director David Cronenberg courageously delves into the underground world of the London-based Russian mafia with Eastern Promises.

A 14-year-old pregnant girl dies in childbirth at a hospital in London, leaving behind nothing but a diary written in Russian. The midwife, Anna, who delivers the baby (Naomi Watts) sets out to have the diary translated in hopes of finding the baby’s family.

Anna’s search leads her right to the doorstep of the charming Russian restaurant owner Semyon (Armin Muller-Stahl), who — unbeknownst to her — is also the head of the city’s Russian mob syndicate. Because of the contents of the diary, which reveals the circumstances of the teen’s pregnancy as well as Semyon’s criminal activities, Anna and the newborn now in her care are in serious danger.

During Anna’s investigation, she meets Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen), a driver for the mob with an extensive criminal record who’s attempting to move his way up in the organization. But Nikolai is no ordinary hired goon. In one instance he expertly disposes of a dead body so it won’t be identified by authorities, yet soon after, this dangerous man is somehow affable enough gain some of Anna’s trust.

In sharp contrast to the ambiguous Nikolai is Semyon’s incompetent psychotic son, Kirill (Vincent Cassel). While the two men appear to be close, Nikolai is just waiting in the wings for the impulsive Kirill to misstep so he can usurp his position as heir to Seymon’s empire.

The tension is palpable from start to finish in Eastern Promises, whether it’s amongst the members of the mob or between Anna and Nikolai, who begin getting dangerously close. Cronenberg manages to inject an atypical love story into this tale of violence and immorality. It might seem hard to believe that a naive, good-natured midwife would be even the slightest bit attracted to a thug like Nikolai, but that’s where casting Viggo Mortensen as Nikolai was pure genius. What other actor could make audiences believe this pairing?

Mortensen is captivating in this role, even more so than his turn as Tom Stall in A History of Violence. In that movie, Mortensen’s Stall was projected as a kind, gentle family man caught up in a web of violence — it was easy to root for him. Our introduction to Nikolai is just the opposite, but the more we learn about him, the more we want him to succeed, whether it’s actually rising in the ranks of the crime world as he intended or possibly living a legitimate life with Anna.

For the most part, Eastern Promises is held up by its engrossing dialogue and the aforementioned tension. But where there are gangsters, there will be blood. In what is most arguably the best scene in the movie, an unarmed and completely nude Nikolai realistically fights off two knife-wielding hitmen in a bathhouse. But the film’s depicted violence — mainly in the form of blade-inflicted mob hits — is actually tame by today’s standards. A scene with Nikolai and Kirill at a whorehouse is actually much more disturbing to watch.

The DVD release includes only two bonus features, each under 10 minutes. “Secrets and Stories” includes interviews with Cronenberg and screenwriter Steve Knight, along with members of the cast, all of whom talk about details behind the Russian mob. Mortensen explains how he researched for his role as Nikolai and Cronenberg talks about casting for the film, which required actors to believably portray Russian characters.

More interesting was “Marked For Life,” about the thread running through the movie pertaining to tattoos. For Russian gangsters, each tattoo, which must be earned, serves a purpose and contains the history of their criminal past. In this feature, it’s revealed that the original script did not highlight this aspect of the Russian crime world and it was actually Mortensen’s extensive research for the role that uncovered this crucial detail.


  1. I loved this film.
    Excellent review. I am glad to see it showing up with some award nominations and top ten lists.

    Comment by Jerry — December 23, 2007 @ 12:29 am

  2. I really, really enjoyed this movie. Your review was very well put.

    Comment by The Rub — December 23, 2007 @ 2:43 pm

  3. This is a fantastic movie that really shows the underworld in a very intriguing yet sinister way. I couldn’t help but feel that the film ended a bit too abrubtly for me at the end (seemed a bit rushed or something).

    Comment by Amy Ried — January 16, 2008 @ 5:40 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Previous Article
Next Article
You may have noticed that we're now AD FREE! Please support Geeks of Doom by using the Amazon Affiliate link above. All of our proceeds from the program go toward maintaining this site.
Geeks of Doom on Twitter Geeks of Doom on Facebook Geeks of Doom on Instagram Follow Geeks of Doom on Tumblr Geeks of Doom on YouTube Geeks of Doom Email Digest Geeks of Doom RSS Feed
The Drill Down Podcast TARDISblend Podcast Westworld Podcast
2023  ·   2022  ·   2021  ·   2020  ·   2019  ·   2018  ·   2017  ·   2016  ·   2015  ·   2014  ·  
2013  ·   2012  ·   2011  ·   2010  ·   2009  ·   2008  ·   2007  ·   2006  ·   2005
Geeks of Doom is proudly powered by WordPress.

Students of the Unusual™ comic cover used with permission of 3BoysProductions
The Mercuri Bros.™ comic cover used with permission of Prodigal Son Press

Geeks of Doom is designed and maintained by our geeky webmaster
All original content copyright ©2005-2023 Geeks of Doom
All external content copyright of its respective owner, except where noted
Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under
a Creative Commons License.
About | Privacy Policy | Contact