#365DaysOfWriting — Day 272

Eastern Promises

What a movie!

I don’t know if I’ve spoken about this film before.

A Russian teen in London passes away during birthing. Her midwife accesses a journal in which the teen accuses a brute Russian mob family of perpetrating sexual assaults on her.

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel and Armin Mueller-Stahl.

It’s safe to say that this is the best gangster film this side of the millennium (A Most Violent Year comes close). Viggo plays an undercover cop working as a driver for the vory v zakone (Russian Mafia) – Armin Mueller-Stahl is its leader Semyon, and he has his son Kirill, played by the absolutely brilliant Vincent Cassel (my favourite character from the film).

It’s not often you can say that a gangster film is an exercise in meditation.

Cronenberg manages that with aplomb. He gives us a close look at the workings of the Russian Mafia situated in London, and as you’d expect, the secrets get darker as the Russian teenager’s diary gets translated, page-by-page. Naomi Watts plays midwife Anna Ivanovna, who approaches Semyon (of all people) to translate the journal. You can only imagine how it goes from there.

The greatest scene is a sauna bathroom fight.

You heard that right. Semyon sets up Nikolai to be killed by the Chechens in a sauna bathroom. What follows next will literally blow your mind (I mean this). Nikolai proceeds to cut down two large Chechens, while sustaining heavy injuries of his own. It cannot be explained in words. And oh, watch it on a DVD without the censoring.

The best moments are owned by Vincent Cassel though.

Especially this one dialogue of his, for a friend who betrayed him (and was now lying dead in a freezer): “Look at him. He was my friend. Now he’s a fucking ice-cream.” His character evolution over the course of the movie is worth noting. Kirill happens to be one of my favourite characters in cinema – you hate him, yet you can’t help but feel sorry for him. Cassel has done a magnificent job. That’s not to say the others haven’t done a good job – just that I liked his character the most.

If I haven’t recommended this film to you earlier, I am doing so now – drop everything you’re doing and watch Eastern Promises. You will not be disappointed.

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