Eastern Promises

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Eastern Promises Movie Poster Image
Compelling but brutal mafia film for adults only.
  • R
  • 2007
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Murder, deception, brutality, kidnapping, smuggling, homophobia -- there's a panoply of questionable behavior on display here.

Violence

Brutal and nearly unrelenting, whether outright graphic or implied. In the opening scene, the throat of a man sitting in a barber shop chair is slit while the camera zooms up close; later, mobsters cut off his fingers so that there won't be any fingerprints (also shown in close-up). A young girl collapses in a pool of blood, Semyon beats his son at the drop of a hat, and Kirill then takes out his frustrations on others. A particularly bloody fight unfolds in a bathhouse, where a naked Nikolai goes up against two clothed intruders bearing knives. One ends up with a dagger in his eyeballs (again, seen up close). Accompanying all of this is a cacophony of disturbing sounds of bones crunching and flesh being hacked to pieces. Women are raped and coerced into sex.

Sex

Tatiana and Nikolai share a tender kiss. All other scenes of sex/nudity involve women clearly under the influence of force and/or coercion. One of these disturbing scenes shows a woman having intercourse (her breasts and bottom are bare) while her eyes are glazed over, as if she's completely disconnected from the act. Images include full nudity, though it's artfully staged so that the camera doesn't linger too long on genitalia (viewers just get flashes of them).

Language

Many uses of "f--k," "bitch," and "whore."

Consumerism

Occasional: Business card for a Russian restaurant, champagne label, Mercedes Benz.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Alcohol fuels the mayhem and seemingly numbs characters to their acts of violence (in a few scenes at a brothel, men drink from liquor bottles before they have sex -- one of them forcibly -- with the women). The young girl, Tatiana, has track marks on her arms, proof that she was drugged so she wouldn't fight her unfortunate circumstances. The men smoke endlessly, and there's social drinking and smoking in the restaurant.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that violence -- both graphic and implied -- permeates this film (just as it did Viggo Mortensen and David Cronenberg's last collaboration, A History of Violence). From the first scene (which shows a brutal throat cutting) on, it's clear that kids and teens aren't the intended audience. Women are manhandled, men are murdered, babies are kidnapped, sons are betrayed, and sexual acts are forced, with little or no emotion. There's also smoking, drinking, strong language, and full nudity. It all serves a complex storyline that yields an intriguing film. But if you're not a Cronenberg fan, you may walk away stunned and appalled.

User Reviews

Adult Written bycallofduty5 September 27, 2010

Adults only!

Ive never been a fan of David Cronenberg. But as for this i bought for DVD cause iam a fan of viggo and naomi. Overall an excellent film: good twists, violence... Continue reading
Parent Written byMyMoustache February 2, 2013

Eastern Promises

This film is one of my favourites. Despite the violence, the adult scenes, the bad language and the general theme of the film i don't see a problem with it... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byEntropy July 15, 2010

Eastern Promises

A very compelling, and incredibly graphic film. An excellent gangster movie, which leaves almost nothing to the imagination. Viggo Mortensen is perfect for this... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written by[email protected] April 9, 2008

What's the story?

A bloodied, pregnant young girl named Tatiana steps into a convenience store, collapses, and is rushed to the hospital, where midwife Anna (Naomi Watts), manages to save her baby's life, but not hers. Shocked at Tatiana's age -- she was only 14 -- and the circumstances surrounding her death -- she was beaten and drugged -- Anna looks through her belongings and finds a diary that she hopes will help her find the Russian girl's family. And so begins filmmaker David Cronenberg's EASTERN PROMISES, which delves into the underbelly of immigrant London, where newcomers are forced into prostitution, disabled young men are manipulated into murder, and a fearsome Russian syndicate controls everything. It's a world that Cronenberg deftly renders with a moody, gritty palette and characters so twisted they're practically cork-screwed. While paging through Tatiana's diary, which is written in Cyrillic, Anna finds a business card for a Russian restaurant. Thinking Tatiana might have worked there, she shows up on its doorstep and accepts owner Semyon's (Armin Mueller-Stahl) help translating it, since her own Russian uncle (Jerzy Skolimowski) won't. (It's a moment too naïve for words, one of the film's weaknesses that can't be easily explained.) But there's nothing benign about Semyon's offer. When Anna learns the diary's contents, it's too late to undo the damage. She must turn to the one man whose intent is hardest to read. Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen) is the driver for Semyon's desperate son, Kirill (Vincent Cassel), but is he Anna's foe or friend? Who is he anyway?

Is it any good?

Cronenberg keeps Nikolai mysterious, a task for which the enigmatic Mortensen is more than worthy. He's unflappable, no matter what the job -- be it dismantling a corpse or parading nearly naked in front of the mob's top bosses. Veteran actor Armin Mueller-Stah conjures pure evil in a masterfully controlled performance)

Graphic violence is expected (required!) in Cronenberg's movies (Scanners, The Fly). But the accomplished auteur steps it up here, layering gore upon gore and overwhelming his own artistry. Just one example: A horrific-but-compelling ballet in which Nikolai is ambushed by two knife-wielding Chechen thugs in a bathhouse -- naked except for his extensive tattoos, he's as vulnerable as you can get -- is sabotaged and upstaged by a close-up of an eye being stabbed. (Oh, and then there's the scene of a throat getting hacked to bits as the movie opens...)

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the movie depicts mob life. Does it glamorize it or paint a more distasteful picture? How is it similar to and different from other movies about the mafia? Why are films in general fascinated by the criminal underworld? What about that subject drives filmmakers and screenwriters to explore it over and over? Families can also talk about the role of violence in the movie. Is it necessary to tell the story? Why or why not? How realistic do you think it is?

Movie details

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