Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Eastern Promises

David Cronenberg claims it's a coincidence that his "Eastern Promises" reunites him with "A History of Violence" star Viggo Mortenson. If so, that's some coincidence, since "Promises" features Mortenson is a sort of flipside version of his "Violence" role, as a hitman with a heart of gold (maybe) but also the will to calmly thaw a frozen corpse with a hair dryer, remove the teeth, and snip off his fingertips.

The movie itself isn't really of a piece with Cronenberg's past works, "Violence" aside, nor, for that matter, is it as good as "Violence." But the homoerotic subtext is intriguing, as is the introduction of Russian prison tattoos as a sort of living history. The film also features one of the most daring and vicious fight scenes I've seen in a while: Mortenson, nude, fending off two Chechen mobsters in a London bathhouse.

The only real distraction this time out is Cronenberg's compulsion to show gore, specifically two gaping slit throats whose visual impact is almost comedic. The director impressively refrains from fetishising the mob, but showing blood less in this case would have been more dramatic.


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