Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Eastern Promises

Seeing as it's Oscar weekend, I figured I'd review Eastern Promises, the latest flick by David Cronenberg, for which lead actor Morten Harket Viggo Mortensen has been nominated for a gong.

I have a love/hate relationship with Cronenberg. Well, that's a bit strong. Maybe a "like a bit/don't much care for" relationship. I read the book Cronenberg on Cronenberg many years ago and found it quite fascinating, and yet when I've watched his films I have often felt cheated. It's like the ideas are great, but something gets lost in the translation.

I actually think he's a very good director, in the sense of being a very good film-maker. I'm not at all convinced, however, that he has the first idea how to direct actors. Viggo comes out of this movie well -- indeed, he shines -- but almost everybody else looks like a huge ham (and no, I'm not including that thing between Viggo's legs in the bathhouse scene, girls).

The story: Naomi Watts works in a hospital. Following the death of a young girl in childbirth, Watts finds her diary, which is all in Russian. She (duh) takes it to the girl's boss -- who also happens to be the head of the local (London) Russian mafia -- for translation, despite her own stepfather being Russian. Big mistake! Let the fun begin...

Naomi Watts is about as bad as I've seen her. That first scene of her on her motorbike? Laughably bad. And her motivations and character choices are absurd. Admittedly this is a script problem, but she doesn't bring any truth to the role either. (I'm horrified to see the screenwriter is co-penning the adaptation of Shutter Island, which is one of my favourite books of recent years. Oh, shit.)

Vincent Cassel presents what I'm sorry to say is yet another cliché-ridden psycho show. It's too bad; he's a great actor. But he's being asked to churn out loony Euro roles far too often.

Armin Mueller-Stahl is also very good. But he is a seasoned actor, and he knows his craft inside out.

All the other acting is bad, bad, bad. And the story is thinner than I've become on my inadvertent diet.

There were some good bits in this film, yes, but it was still rather disappointing overall. Well, at least it was better than A History of Violence. I give this movie 64 points out of 100.

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