What is it about the mafia that provides so much great material for pulpy pictures? Cronenberg has tapped into this successfully in his Russian mob yarn, Eastern Promises.
This meandering little tale follows a diverse set of characters as they intersect following the tragic death of a pregnant young woman. To talk about the plot more than that would cheapen it. This is the kind of story that is best enjoyed not knowing where it is going to take you.
Cronenberg has come to master a very blunt, yet deceptively complex, style of story telling. His visuals are stark and dramatic but remain somewhat removed, clinical or even understated. This creates an interesting dichotomy that allows for true character study. This strengthens his narrative and makes for very enjoyable movie watching.
Harkening back to his early days, Cronenberg doesn’t shy away from blood. The violence here is graphic, almost cartoonish, as it was in his A History of Violence. Yet the violence is used sparingly and only when necessary. It contributes to the story and is absolutely essential. The famous “bath house” scene is gritty and powerful. Naive audiences may giggle, but it remains a brave choice that pays off for both actor and director.
Cronenberg even tops it all off with another wonderfully ambiguous ending. Maybe it’s not quite as pitch perfect as the last scene of Violence but it’s still a powerful shot. An excellent end to a mighty damn fine picture.