Must Hear Music
Reviews Archives
Bargain Basement
Music DVD
Send Us Mail
Contact Us


Focus Features

Official Site

Director: David Cronenberg

Producers: Robert Lantos, Paul Webster

Written by: Steve Knight

Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel, Armin Mueller-Stahl


Eastern Promises is the second collaboration between Canadian director Cronenberg and leading man Mortensen, and like their previous work A History Of Violence this one pushes the audience’s limits offering full frontal male nudity, graphic violence and sexual activity. As such the movie may not be for squeamish viewers.

A young girl in London dies giving birth while under the care of midwife Anna (Watts), leaving behind only a diary written in Russian as a clue to her origin. In her quest to translate the diary and find the girl’s family Anna comes into contact with dapper restaurateur Semyon (Mueller-Stahl), his drunken son Kirill (Cassel), and family driver Nickolai (Mortensen). Anna quickly realizes that these people are not in the restaurant business at all, but are members of the Vory V Zakone (Russian organized crime). After these four meet up quite a bit happens and even more is implied, but the less said about the specifics the better.

The characters share many common traits with genre archetypes, but with excellent writing and tour de force performances, Eastern Promises is able to transcend tired conventions. In a revelatory scene Vincent Cassel uses Steven Knight’s words to convert Kirill from just another psychotic mob enforcer into a conflicted person that could be anyone. Armin Mueller-Stahl’s Semyon does such a convincing act as a doting grandfatherly patriarch that it seems irreconcilable for the same person to be a soulless crime boss. Naomi Watts’ Anna is by her own admission just an “ordinary person,” and while she does a fine job, the consequence of being ordinary is having less to do than all the gangsters. Nikolai remains an enigma throughout the film and as more facets of his history and goals become known the less of a grip we have on who he is, and when the film does fade out we feel as though we barely know him at all.

Eastern Promises is set in a very well constructed universe with very alive (and some very dead) inhabitants. With the exception of one subplot that seemed tacked on, nothing is unnecessary and no doubt the movie will benefit from repeat viewings, if only to witness Viggo Mortensen’s chameleon-like (and serious Oscar contender) performance, as he completely inhabits the persona of Nikolai.

—Woodrow Bogucki

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

Mike Doughty

none now

South By Southwest 2014
David DeVoe

South By Southwest 2013
David DeVoe

Red Hook Music Festival
George Dow

SXSW 2012
David DeVoe

Our Favorite Records 2011
Hybrid Staff

Rachel Fredrickson

Rachel Fredrickson

Warped Tour 2011
Rachel Fredrickson

Eddie Spaghetti
Melissa Skrbic-Huss

Murder By Death
Mike DeLeo

Mike Doughty
Boulder, CO

Denver, CO

Imagine Dragons
Denver, CO

Cambridge, MA

Young Magic
Denver, CO

Warped Tour 2012
Denver, CO

Denver, CO

Mike Doughty
Denver, CO

Kansas City, MO

Other Lives
Lawrence, KS

Los Campesinos
Boston, MA

The Civil Wars
Lawrence, KS

Ha Ha Tonka
Lawrence, KS

Lawrence, KS

hybridmagazine.com is updated daily except when it isn't.
New film reviews are posted every week like faulty clockwork.
Wanna write for hybrid? Send us an e-mail.
© 1996-2009 [noun] digital media. All rights reserved worldwide. All content on hybridmagazine.com and levelheadedmusic.com is the intellectual property of Hybrid Magazine and its respective creators. No part of hybridmagazine.com or levelheadedmusic.com may be reproduced in any format without expressed written permission. For complete masthead and physical mailing address, Click Here.