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Sunday, September 28, 2008

EASTERN PROMISES (2006)

Viggo Mortensen & David Cronenberg, the star & helmer of A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE/’05 , reunited for this Russian mob in London tale, but didn’t get the critical or commercial acclaim they deserved. Too violent, too ambitious, too many plot tangents, too many impenetrable foreign accents. True enough, yet this is a rare recent release that suffers from being two sizes too small for its own good. The main story revamps Max Ophuls’ masterful THE RECKLESS MOMENT/’49 (remade as THE DEEP END/’02) with Mortensen playing the mob man who turns gentlemanly protector when Naomi Watts finds herself incomprehensibly drawn inside gang warfare. But the intricacies of internecine mob conflict, police investigations, ‘made-men’ and moles, White Slave traffic and a smashing turn from Vincent Cassel as a sexually ambiguous mob scion simply can’t be serviced within the 100 minute running time. Where’s the Director’s Cut when we really need one? Or is Cronenberg afraid of the epic story that’s staring him in the face? Surprisingly, the big set piece with a nude Mortensen under deadly assault in a steamy bathhouse is pretty rotten action filmmaking. Great ass on Viggo, though!

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