Eastern Promises

LetterboxD review link

This was a re-watch for me, almost 10 years after the film’s release, when I had seen it first. Cronenberg’s usual fascination with the intersection of the corporal and people’s identities is front and center. The bath house fight scene was fresh in my memory, even though I had only seen the film once before. There’s something about those curved knives, how sharp they are, and how they scrape against Vigo Mortenson’s body, that is unforgettable.

The thing that I didn’t remember but appreciated on this rewatch, was the relationship between the lone Londoner (Naomi Watts, an anglicized second generation immigrant herself), and the immigrant communities in London. In the last few years, as a resident of Brooklyn, I’ve come to know some of these communities myself. I find them fascinating. And ripe with narrative tension and structure, ready to explore. I’d be happy to read and watch more stories with communities like London’s Russian neighborhoods and the mob at their center.

Another thing I noticed, was how simple the whole plot and story was. There weren’t many twists and turns. The plot, especially if you’ve seen other films in the mob genre, folds out mostly as expected. The real rewards of watching this film come from a deeper exploration of the main protagonists’ motivations. Which are less clear on screen or in dialog but brought out mostly through great acting.