By Marc Glassman
Eastern Promises. David Cronenberg, director. Steven Knight, script.
Starring: Viggo Mortensen (Nikolai), Naomi Watts (Anna), Armin Mueller-Stahl (Semyon)
Though it’s premiering at TIFF, David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises is intended to reach the widest possible audience. A razor sharp genre piece, this noir thriller is set among the Russian gangster class, now dominating much of London, England’s underworld.
Viggo Mortensen is riveting as Nikolai, a mobster on the rise in an organization run by Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl in a creepily effective performance). When Anna (Naomi Watts), an innocent nurse, gets mixed up in the gang’s business, sparks fly. Brilliantly paced, Eastern Promises features one of Cronenberg’s most intense set pieces, in a sauna bath where death can be simultaneously erotic and terrifying.