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Eastern Promises [DVD]

4.0 out of 5 stars 124 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel
  • Directors: David Cronenberg
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 18
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: 25 Feb. 2008
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0010VXMP8
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,632 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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Product description

Product Description

Thriller set among the Russian mafia in London from Canadian director David Cronenberg. Nikolai Luzhin (Viggo Mortensen) is a driver for one of London's organized crime families who are part of the notorious Vory V Zakone criminal brotherhood. The family is headed by Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), a cold and brutal man who hides his true nature behind his public role as a charming restaurateur and his volatile son and enforcer, Kirill (Vincent Cassell), is Nikolai's closest friend. Nikolai's carefully maintained existence is threatened when he meets Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts), a midwife at a North London hospital who has been deeply affected by the plight of a teenager (Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse) who died giving birth. The girl left behind a diary written in Russian in which Anna seeks the answers to the baby's lineage. By delving into the diary, Anna has accidentally unleashed the full fury of the Vory. With Semyon and Kirill closing ranks and Anna pressing her inquiries - Nikolai finds his loyalties divided. Lives hang in the balance as a disturbing chain of murder and revenge reverberates through the darkest corners of both the family and London itself.

From Amazon.co.uk

David Cronenberg's signature obsessions flower in Eastern Promises, a stunning look at violence, responsibility, and skin. Near Christmas time in London, a baby is born to a teenage junkie--an event that leads a midwife (Naomi Watts) into the world of the Russian mob. Central to this world is an ambitious enforcer (Viggo Mortensen) who's lately buddied up with the reckless son (Vincent Cassel) of a mob boss (Armin Mueller-Stahl, doing his benign-sinister thing). Screenwriter Steve Knight also wrote Dirty Pretty Things, and in some ways this is a companion piece to that film, though utterly different in style. The plot is classical to the point of being familiar, but Cronenberg doesn't allow anything to become sentimental; he and his peerless cinematographer Peter Suschitzky take a cool, controlled approach to this story. Because of that, when the movie erupts in its (relatively brief) violence, it's genuinely shocking. Cronenberg really puts the viewer through it, as though to shame the easy purveyors of pulp violence--nobody will cheer when the blood runs in this film. Still, Eastern Promises has a furtive humour, nicely conveyed in Viggo Mortensen's highly original performance. Covered in tattoos, his body a scroll depicting his personal history of violence, Mortensen conveys a subtle blend of resolve and lost-ness. He's a true, haunting mystery man. --Robert Horton, Amazon.com

Stills from Eastern Promises (click for larger image). Photos by Peter Mountain.

Vincent Cassel (left) and Viggo Mortensen (right).

Armin Mueller-Stahl.

Viggo Mortensen (left) and Naomi Watts (right)

Viggo Mortensen (left) and Naomi Watts (right).

Naomi Watts.

Armin Mueller-Stahl (left) and Naomi Watts (right).

Mina E. Mina (left), Vincent Cassel (center) and Viggo Mortensen (right).

Vincent Cassel.

Viggo Mortensen.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
With 'History of Violence' David Cronenberg initially seemed to have made a change of direction from the 'body horror' genre which he popularised. On closer examination however, both that film and 'Eastern Promises' - which share Viggo Mortensen in the lead role - graft classic Cronenberg themes on to more prosaic contexts. There is less pseudo-science and fantasy about these films (the former set in suburbia and the latter in the London criminal underworld) but they are no less powerfully subversive for that. Cronenberg has claimed that his films should be viewed "from the point of view of the disease", and it is the corruptive nature of criminal violence that provides the physical stigma in both these films.

In 'Eastern Promises', Vigo Mortensen's menacing Russian Mafia goonda Nikolai's body is heavily marked by the 'vory v zakone' tattoos that tell a story of a life in crime. Cronenberg films these marks as dark, almost cancerous stains, which is redolent of his earlier works such as The Fly. The violence is again unflinchingly visceral, in particular in a centre-piece fight in which a naked Nikolai fends off a knife attack in a Turkish bath. The vivid lacerations of the skin force the the viewer to confront their debilitating physical impact. Imagine if Cronenberg had filmed Reservoir Dogs, he certainly would not have spared us Mr Blonde's severing of the cop's ear, but rather given it a close up.

'Eastern Promises' begins with a hemorrhaging fourteen-year-old Ukranian prostitute dying in childbirth. The baby survives, but its violent eruption also suggests that hallmark of the 'body horror' genre, the alien bursting from the stomach in Ridley Scott's classic. The fact that the baby is the product of rape on a virgin compounds this notion of the physical contamination.
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Format: DVD
I'm actually not sure how to describe this movie, but I'll give it my best shot. First of all, Viggo Mortensen is outstanding as Nikolai, a driver and enforcer for the Russian Mafia, and full time baby-sitter to Kirill, the wayward son of Mafia boss Semyon. He's one cold, emotionless dude when he has to be, but has a human side that peeps out ever so often from behind that steely, chiseled mug.

Vincent Cassel (Kirill) and Armin Mueller-Stahl (Semyon) are also extremely convincing, the former as a violent drunk and the latter as the charming and affable, but very cruel father. Naomi Watts doesn't light up the screen and steal the show as she normally does, but it could be the depressing role of Anna, a midwife who delivers a baby for a fourteen year old girl who doesn't make it off the operating table.

Anne Frank may have left a more famous diary, but the diary of the unfortunate young woman is so revealing that some people are prepared to kill to keep the contents from being brought to light.

Fascinating in some aspects, such as the story behind the tattoos, and graphic in quite a few others, including a memorable scene with a totally nude Viggo battling against guys with linoleum knives, I found some parts a bit too long and drawn out, and some too predictable.

Never-the-less, the acting, the casting and the intensity of this drama make it extremely watchable (if you like this movie genre), and although it isn't going to be one of my favorite movies, it certainly is worth mentioning here.

Amanda Richards
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By Spike Owen TOP 500 REVIEWER on 19 April 2013
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Eastern Promises is directed by David Cronenberg and written by Steven Knight. It stars Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel and Armin Mueller-Stahl. Music is by Howard Shore and cinematography by Peter Suschitzky.

When a Russian teenager dies in childbirth, midwife Anna Khitrova (Watts) tries to seek out any relatives so that the baby will not be put into the foster care system. Following leads written in the dead girl's harrowing diary, Anna is led to mysterious Russian chauffeur Nikolai Luzhin (Mortensen) and the underworld of the Russian Mafia.

After the critical and box office success of A History of Violence in 2005, it was no surprise to see director Cronenberg and lead man Mortensen team up again for another violent thriller. Perhaps less surprising is that it's equally as great, more proof positive that even when the great director goes mainstream he's still making powder-keg cinema.

Set in London, a seamy London at that, Eastern Promises takes a look at a criminal underworld thriving beneath the city's glossy veneer. This isn't about the rat-a-tat of machine guns, this is slow and methodical criminality, where all roads lead to pain and misery for anyone not in league with, or on the wrong side of, the Vory V Zakone. Cronenberg never lets the film go up a pace, which is absolutely to the film's benefit, even as violence is rendered, and body horror (hey this is Cronenberg after all) comes our way, it's cloaked in a controlled melancholy that just pulses with sinister beats.

Steven Knight's screenplay has a few tricks up its sleeve, not only on revelation terms, but also thematically as loyalty and family dynamics come under the microscope.
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