Sunday, October 14, 2007
Eastern Promises (2007)
Good stuff, very low-key and solid storytelling from Cronenberg, probably his least self-consciously arty movie since The Dead Zone. Too bad it's basically getting ignored by the public.
Obviously the best part of the whole movie is the now-infamous naked fight in the bathhouse, it's refreshing to see a famous actor getting thrown around on hard tiles and being able to tell that it's almost certainly really him and not a stuntman on padding. Cronenberg really knows how to get you to feel, viscerally, a fight without relying on the now-trendy shaky handheld camera and a million cuts. That's not to say that I didn't also enjoy the brutal fight scene in The Bourne Ultimatum but this one just feels a lot more realistic. More specifically, it fits with Croneneberg's directing style, which has always been much more distanced, observing his characters rather than trying to put the audience into their mindsets, the objective of fight scenes from such directors as Paul Greengrass (to name a good filmmaker) to Michael Bay (to name a bad one).
On the whole this isn't an earthshaking Croneneberg film that is seeking to blow a mental paradigm, like Videodrome or Existenz, or confront you with bizarre imagery, like Crash or Naked Lunch. Instead it's a low-key narrative excursion, well-made but unspectacular. What I do like are the odd details in the corner - especially the implication that Naomi Watts has managed to get what she wants (a baby) through a most curious path, and that Viggo Mortensen, revealed (SPOILER) to be an undercover Russian agent infiltrating the mob, seems at the end of the movie to have been working for his own personal interests all along, settled in as the new London mob boss and answerable to no one. Good stuff.