From Russia with gore; Cinema.
EASTERN PROMISES (18)
STARS: Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel.
DIRECTOR: David Cronenberg.
DIRECTOR David Cronenberg reunites with charismatic leading man Viggo Mortensen to explore the dark secrets of a Russian crime family in this intense and bloodthirsty thriller.
Opening with a gory sequence in a barbershop that gives new meaning to giving someone a close shave, the film pulls no punches in its depiction of the brutality in London's underworld.
Cronenberg is well suited to brutality and bloodshed, having traversed similar territory in A History of Violence.
Here, he evokes a seamy vision of the capital, far removed from the picture postcard images of the Thames and London Eye; a ratrun of grey concrete and eerie alleyways where bodies can be thrown into the river and dragged under by the strong currents.
Caring midwife Anna (Watts) inadvertently strays into the middle of a gang war when she becomes emotionally attached to a badly-injured teenage girl and her newborn baby.
When the young mother dies, Anna steals her diary and begins to translate the text with the help of her mother and belligerent, Russian-born uncle.
The hand-written confessional reveals unspeakable treachery in a clan ruled by Semyon along with his son and gruff chauffeur Nikolai (Mortensen); terrible deeds which Semyon will do anything to keep hidden.
The patriarch makes thinlyveiled threats to Anna, determined to keep the past buried.
Eastern Promises is a tour de force of robust, assured direction and powerful performances.
Violence is used sparingly, but to devastating effect, like the bruising fight in a bathhouse between a completely naked Mortensen and two knife-wielding assailants that ends with the tiled floor and walls spattered in blood.
As tensions escalate and members of the criminal fraternity turn against one another, we're left in no doubt that when the film ends, the dark night of murder and retribution has only just begun.
DEVASTATING... Naomi Watts (above) and Viggo Mortensen (far right) star in David Cronenberg's violent thriller Eastern Promises (18).