Eastern Promises

Eastern Promises Image
Metascore
82

Universal acclaim - based on 35 Critics What's this?

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7.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 246 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: The mysterious and charismatic Russian-born Nikolai Luzhin is a driver for one of London's most notorious organized crime families of Eastern European origin. The family is part of the Vory V Zakone criminal brotherhood. Headed by Semyon--whose courtly charm as the welcoming proprietor ofThe mysterious and charismatic Russian-born Nikolai Luzhin is a driver for one of London's most notorious organized crime families of Eastern European origin. The family is part of the Vory V Zakone criminal brotherhood. Headed by Semyon--whose courtly charm as the welcoming proprietor of the plush Trans-Siberian restaurant impeccably masks a cold, brutal core--the family is tested by Semyon's volatile son and enforcer, Kirill, who is more tightly bound to Nikolai than to his own father. But Nikolai's carefully maintained existence is jarred once he crosses paths at Christmastime with Anna Khitrova, a midwife at a North London hospital. Anna is deeply affected by the desperate situation of a young teenager who dies while giving birth to a baby. Anna resolves to try to trace the baby's lineage and relatives. The girl's personal diary also survives her, which is written in Russian; thus, Anna seeks answers in it. Anna's mother, Helen, does not discourage her, but Anna's irascible Russian-born uncle Stepan urges caution. He is right to do so: By delving into the diary, Anna has accidentally unleashed the full fury of the Vory. (Focus Features) Expand

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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 32 out of 35
  2. Negative: 0 out of 35
  1. 100
    The actors and the characters merge and form a reality above and apart from the story, and the result is a film that takes us beyond crime and London and the Russian mafia and into the mystifying realms of human nature.
  2. Viggo Mortensen's performance is flat-out brilliant, and this relentlessly dramatic thriller represents a mid-life growth spurt for its director, David Cronenberg.
  3. 90
    A rhapsodic movie directed with considerable formal intelligence and brooding power from an original screenplay by Steve Knight, Eastern Promises is very much a companion to "A History of Violence."
  4. The restraint of both director and actor makes this steely gangster drama reverberate long after it ends. This kind of mystery is rare in a film culture that demands answers before the credits roll.
  5. It's an academic meditation in underworld-thriller drag -- a movie that looks about as close to a straight-ahead, down-and-dirty genre entertainment as anything the director has made since his exploding-head horror days.
  6. The first must-see adult film of the young fall.
  7. 50
    Eastern Promises is intensely anti-dramatic.

See all 35 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 67 out of 94
  2. Negative: 18 out of 94
  1. AnnieI.
    Sep 21, 2007
    10
    I think the people who gave this film a 1 are just visitors on this forum, nothing more, and for the love of argument, they wrote something I think the people who gave this film a 1 are just visitors on this forum, nothing more, and for the love of argument, they wrote something about a story they did not follow closely, about a film they did not have the patience to watch until the final credits. I think Cronenberg is one of the most interesting filmmakers of our times, and this one is definitely in my top ten this year. Maybe not the same as "A History of Violence" which was absolutely mesmerizing... but still, real cinema and not commercial crap, as unfortunately 90 percent of what is being done in Hollywood today. As for Mortensen, well, I think this time he has really achieved perfection. You have to be absurd and a bit silly to expect for more. Expand
  2. GerryM.
    Sep 14, 2007
    10
    What a strange, brutal movie.
  3. LuciD.
    Feb 22, 2009
    10
    This is for an educated audience. (not for a supposed 8-year-old niece that can write a script about Russian organized crime as noted in a This is for an educated audience. (not for a supposed 8-year-old niece that can write a script about Russian organized crime as noted in a non-critical bashing review) The mind-set is for the R rating, maturity and international crime solving group. Viggo Mortensen received a long deserved Oscar nom for his ability to get into his character's skin on this one. Well worth the watch and will put you on the edge of your seat; as well as open-a closed mindset. Expand
  4. MartinB.
    Sep 23, 2007
    8
    I've always wanted to share my thoughts about movies since I watched Transformers, which in my opinion is one of the best action movies I've always wanted to share my thoughts about movies since I watched Transformers, which in my opinion is one of the best action movies to come out this year. For someone who grew up watching the cartoon, the movie was a dream come true, and I also believe Michael Bay(the director) put a lot of us to shame by delivering a worthy product ... but I digress. My intention is to share thoughts on movies I love like the one I just saw, and ones I truly loathe and would gladly request for $9 back...case in point - "The Reaping" "Eastern Promises" is movie directed by David Cronenberg. You may remember him from "A History of Violence". Every one remembers that movie...Seeing Maria Bello in her cheer leader outfit alone was worth the price of admission... then there was the sex scene on the steps. I suggest you rent or purchase it immediately. Back to "Eastern Promises"...The main actors are Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel and Armin Mueller-Stahl; I'll get to information about their performances soon enough. Without giving much away, the story is basically about a nurse who unfortunately witnesses a 14 year old Russian girl giving birth and dying during labor. She embarks on a quest to find out more about the girl's family and also have her diary translated. On the nurse's quest of discovery, she ends up getting involved with some really vile people, mainly the Russian crime family - Vory V Zakone. The rest of the movie unravels the mystery behind the dead girl, and eventually the father of the baby.Warning! If you are not a fan of violent movies, you will not enjoy this movie. There's enough extreme violence to make the toughest guy squirm. One scene in the steam room is particularly disturbing to watch. I was impressed by all the actors. Naomi Watts, who I last saw playing the love interest of a mega-sized gorilla, put on quite a performance. Her character is the nurse who drove the story, but this is not a role she'll be remembered for...Armin Mueller-Stahl plays the owner of a restaurant and is also affiliated with the Vory V Zakone. Vincent Cassel plays his crazy son Kirill, who much to his father's chagrin, is also rumored to be gay. The true star of the movie is Viggo, who plays Nikolai, a mysterious driver who definitely wants to move up in the family. His russian is fluent, and his accent is perfect. It's almost hard to imagine him speaking in another accent after this movie. He accent and grammar really did sound like his spoke a Slavic language natively. It was very interesting to watch him play his role so flawlessly. In all, this was a pretty good movie. I believe David Cronenberg and Viggo should make more movies together. They certainly have a formula that works. Expand
  5. Apr 13, 2011
    7
    Mortensen was mesmerising, so much so I almost forgot the farrago of LOTR. It wasn't the same person. He was effortlessly menacing, yet stillMortensen was mesmerising, so much so I almost forgot the farrago of LOTR. It wasn't the same person. He was effortlessly menacing, yet still human; the plot and all the rest of the actors moved around him in the shadows - except for Armin Mueller Stahl who was (literally) the only genuine Russian. Vincent Cassel gave his usual panto performance. Naomi Watts was weak and couldn't transcend the implausibility she was being asked to cover up for.

    Everything tailed away somewhat disappointingly after a powerful first half and I was left watching the closing credits wondering what kind of fool I'd just been taken for. But at least I watched the closing credits because I was still thinking about it.
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  6. Jun 14, 2015
    5
    Eastern Promises is the latest effort from acclaimed filmmaker David Cronenberg, whose recent work has elevated his status from that of a cultEastern Promises is the latest effort from acclaimed filmmaker David Cronenberg, whose recent work has elevated his status from that of a cult figure to someone in the mainstrem. Although the director has re-teamed with his The History of Violence star, Viggo Mortensen, the results aren’t as satisfactory. Eastern Promises is a jumbled string of mob-related clichés that mesh into something that’s derivative and at times uninteresting. Aside from two “Cronenberg” scenes, the movie is lifeless and concludes on a note that makes the movie feel unfinished. I have been complaining about a lot of the movies at this festival being needlessly long; Eastern Promises might have been a better production had it added another 15 or 20 minutes on the back end, beefing up an anticlimactic finale.

    Naomi Watts is Anna, a midwife at a London hospital. After delivering a baby for an unwed mother who dies in childbirth, Anna goes in search of the girl’s living relatives. Her quest unexpectedly brings her into contact with the Russian mob, presided over by the kingpin, a restaurant owner named Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), and his creepy son (Vincent Cassel). They pretend to be nice to her, but their goal is to obtain an incriminating diary possessed by the dead mother. To do their dirty work, they employ Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen), whose official role is as Semyon’s driver, but who is also referred to as “the undertaker.” Nikolai has his own secrets, not the least of which is a desire to depose Semyon and replace him upon the throne of the Russian criminal underworld in London.

    Eastern Promises concentrates on two basic plots, neither of which radiates originality. The first pertains to Anna’s near-obsessive need to find a family for the motherless baby. We learn that she lost a child and so relates to the newborn on a maternal level. Then there’s the crime element of the story, which includes gamesmanship among the gangsters to see who will ultimately end up on top. The “surprise” twist (which won’t be unexpected to some viewers) introduces more problems than it solves and leads in part to the incomplete feeling that accompanies the ending.

    Cronenberg delivers twice when it comes to gore and violence. The movie opens with one of these trademark scenes as a man’s throat is slit while he’s in a barber’s chair. (Encouragement to tip well.) Later, there’s a no holds-barred two-on-one between Nikolai and a couple of thugs. What makes this interesting is that Viggo Mortensen is naked for the entire battle. This is one of those rare movies when there’s plenty of male nudity as Mortensen literally lets it all hang out. (Hetero men will be glad to know that there are a few bare breasts here and there, although none belongs to Naomi Watts.) Sadly, those are the only two sequences likely to remind the viewer that he or she is watching a Cronenberg movie. The rest of what’s on offer - including everything related to Anna - is banal. Perhaps the director set the bar so high with The History of Violence (a flawed but at times brilliant motion picture) that there was no way he could equal it with Eastern Promises, but for him to fall so far short is nothing less than criminal.
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  7. HistoryofViolenceSucked
    Sep 26, 2007
    0
    I walked out of History of Violence because it sucked so bad, so I'm glad I read some of these reviews. Sounds like more of the same. I walked out of History of Violence because it sucked so bad, so I'm glad I read some of these reviews. Sounds like more of the same. History of Violence, to me, had no character development. I didn't give a crap about any of the characters, and then having to watch a ridiculously timed, lame sex scene on the stairs was the icing on the cake. I looked around in the theater and was like, "Am I the only one who sees how weak the script and acting are?" I bailed, since you never get back that 2 hours, even if you can't get your money back! Expand

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