We have seen movies about the Italian mafia, the Japanese mafia, the Irish mafia, even the alien mafia. It is time now for the Russian mafia to hit the screen. First thing to notice, the movie is set in London. Second thing to notice, there are not two predefined sides. Third thing to notice, characters evolve. Three things that brought me to eastern promises and by themselves make it worth. But there is more in the last movie from acclaimed, as they say in the promotional poster, director David Cronenberg.
The story starts with both a murder in a barber shop and the death of a young Russian slave prostitute right after she gave birth to a girl. Anna Ivanova (Naomi Watts), a half-Russian midwife, finds her diary in her purse and keeps it hoping it would help her find relatives. The diary, though, leads her to the London Russian mafia and Nikolai (Vigo Mortensen) a simple driver who is gaining fast his way up.
The whole atmosphere of the movie is as dry as a dry vodka martini. Even though it is explicitly violent, something that it does not hide right from the beginning, it is the violence we do not see the one that hurts. Cronenberg manages to accurately portray an underworld of violence not only through what he shows with his camera, but through what he suggests. But this in not a movie about violence the way a history of violence (2003) was. This is a movie, overall, about lying. The distance Cronenberg kept with the violence of his last movie, violence he never judged, he keeps now with Mortensen’s motivations. On top of that, there is also a silent love story for those friends with ephemeral connections.
Mortensen and Watts are both convincing as a cold gangster and tough nurse. But it is Vincent Cassel, who plays the leader’s son, who caught my eye. He succeeds with subtlety as a man both tormented by his sexuality and who lacks, and is aware, the charisma, sobriety, and patience of his father. Armin Mueller-Stahl, who plays his father, looks too much like previous mafia leaders, but then again, after Don Vito Corleone, no matter the where the mafia is from, who has reinvented such a character? On another note, the Russian accent they all proudly fake, might, despite of the overall faithfulness, get in your nerves.
The Russian environment the movie draws lacks instrumentality but it is close to what it is. The meaning of Mortensen’s tattoos, the paradox between the treatment that both teen and old women receive by Russians, the importance of jerarchy, are all ingredients of a juicy cake. To remember, the fight in the sauna, and not precisely because of Mortensen’s best kept secrets, best kept at least until now.
A movie to lay down an enjoy with, for example, a good bottle of wine. You, that are still reading this review, will like it.
For the deadhours of those who took Russian in college.
official site | imdb