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Psychedelic Factory in David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises (2007) December 15, 2007

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Hollywood.
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Directed by David Cronenberg
Written by Steve Knight
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel

Moral corruption has always been in our blood. Consider this fact — we are all corrupt in nature — no matter how hard our religion tells us otherwise. And it seems that in times like these, we have nothing to depend on except our beliefs.

Eastern Promises, unsurprisingly, is a total knockout. It grips you the moment you feel that chill, as if everything happens in isolation and in complete fear. The square off between the disturbed lives of a Russian mob family and an estranged midwife anticipates a deathblow but it merely goes until the last round of fight without anyone falling — the only time when it’s about to give in is when Viggo Mortensen fights for his life in the tub, in that nauseating bath scene, twisting, turning, twirling, and trembling; we all know there’s a fraud going on, two against one, not even a fair match, and they have knives in the first place, but Mortensen, whose godlike features are even more sharpened by Cronenberg’s unsurpassed ability to startle, nearly on the ropes, shows the exact opposite of what Guy Pearce’s tattoos in Memento mean, unleashes his rage, and finally stabs an eye of his quaking opponent. He has certainly nailed it, in extremes.

Mob stories are somehow mapped out to convey the darkness of the human spirit. May they be the Italian mafia, KGB, or American gangsters, they all possess a brooding sense of fraternity, ready to topple everything that goes against their way, and kill their enemies without any sense of regret. Although mob films intend to focus on the importance of the group rather than personal sensibilities, it is also inevitable that stories of individuals who leap across boundaries and invoke inspiring life stories are told in scrutiny; thus unforgettable icons such as Scarface, Vito Corleone, and Michael Sullivan. The same way that horror stories are not only about ghosts and evil spirits, gangsters do not only delve on guns and violence — they also traverse on larger boundaries such as corruption and the decay of human spirit.

Thus Eastern Promises promises a multitude of things. The atmosphere it creates, the entangled lives of people bordered by morality, the question of racial differences — You should not mix races, that’s why your baby died inside you — and the plight of the weak in this strangely incapacitated world, are well beyond our reach despite the fact that they continue to eat us up. Bang bang goes the broken glass, my first Cronenberg is a hi-jack. * * * *

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