Eastern Promises DVD Review: A Double Vodka, Please
By Prairie Miller
While David Cronenberg's extraordinary History Of Violence masterfully probed and intimately delved into the heart of darkness of US death fetish culture, his dramatic scrutiny of the flourishing post-Soviet Russian mob phenomenon as manifested in the underbelly of the London metropolis in Eastern Promises, is more in the nature of a UK outsider (which he is) barely looking in. Settling for melodramatic conventions rather than historical or emotional truth, Eastern Promises is tedious, derivative of countless Hollywood gangster sagas, and at best disappointing.
Naomi Watts is Anna, a nerve wracked midwife at a London Hospital. One evening, she is called in to deliver the baby of a dying, hemorrhaging homeless teen. Now, I don't happen to have a medical degree, and the fact that Cronenberg has never given birth aside, common sense would dictate that an actual obstetrician would be recruited for such a life threatening emergency procedure. This is but the first of many indications that Eastern Promises is perhaps in nearly as much trouble as this unfortunate teen.
Without ever learning much about any of these characters, save for surface details seemingly gleaned from script back stories and nothing more, we are informed to some minimal degree that Anna once experienced deprived motherhood, and so is determined to find the relatives of this now orphaned infant. Her relentless quest leads her into the tangled, brutal web of the local Russian mob, and a peculiar relationship with inscrutable godfather wannabe, Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen). On second thought, one can't be sure if he's merely inscrutable or the story neglected to sufficiently flesh out his character.
In any case, the usual mayhem and sentimental interludes plays out, including a graphic barbershop throat slitting, nude macho wrestling and eye gouging in a bathhouse, far too willing underage Ukrainian sex slaves subjected to sexual exploitation and abuse by these thuggish cronies, and the lost and found diary of the deceased teen mom revealing all sorts voiceover confessional musings that hardly seem to matter. And weirdly, though horrific in detail, barely register as astonishing or provocative. A double vodka, please.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Features: Available on DVD and HD-DVD. Extras include: Secrets and Stories Featurette, Marked for Life Featurette, and theatrical trailer.
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