Eastern Promises Movie Poster Image

Eastern Promises

Compelling but brutal mafia film for adults only.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 100 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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


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.


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).


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


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.

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.

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...)

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:September 14, 2007
DVD/Streaming release date:December 26, 2007
Cast:Armin Mueller-Stahl, Naomi Watts, Viggo Mortensen
Director:David Cronenberg
Studio:Focus Features
Run time:100 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong brutal and bloody violence, some graphic sexuality, language and nudity.

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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 is graphic enough to gain an "R" rating. Profanity and sexual stuff are graphic. This movie is suitable for people aged 16 and up its very dark and totally not for kids. Consider talking to your kids before you buy this
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great role models
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 part, and the entire film manages to realistically portray the brutality of the Russian mafia. The violence is incredibly brutal, and includes but is not limited too: Several very realistic sequences in which characters throats are slit, fingertips are cut off of dead corpses to remove the chance of them being identified, a man is stabbed in the eye, several bloody knife fights, women are raped (pretty graphically) etc... The sex scenes are very graphic as well, including but not limited too: A very graphic scene in which a character is forced to have sex with a prostitute as an "initiation" of sorts (genitalia briefly visible), lots of nudity, women are seen topless, and sometimes entirely nude. As for language it includes a very extensive selection: f**k, b**tch, whore, c**t, s**t, d*mn, and many variations. All in all, I'd say this film is strictly for adults and older teens. I would recommend it for 16+.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
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 for mature teens because it is not a 'scary' film.The story can be difficult to follow and there are very few subtitles even when English is not being spoken. The film has a positive message and don't glamourise any of the bad characters at all. I would definitely recommend it.