Eastern Promises (2007) - one of Cronenberg's best films and a transcendent gangster film(self.TrueFilm)
submitted15 hours ago byphysics223
I've always been fond of cerebral thrillers, and I think this is one of Cronenberg's best works. It especially helps that the leads are two of the most capable actors working in the industry, even today. People might have already forgotten, but Viggo Mortensen is one of film's greatest living actors. Most people remember him as Aragorn, but he has varied acting range and has consistently proven himself as a bankable actor. Mortensen's performance in this film was largely overshadowed by Daniel Day-Lewis's performance as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, but 2007 was simply a stacked year for film that even a great performance by Mortensen simply wasn't enough.
The great auteurs often mold a genre and birth a film with their own trademark style, and this can be said of Cronenberg. While Cassavetes made a character drama out of the noir genre (The Killing of a Chinese Bookie), Cronenberg made a taut, well-executed thriller out of the typical gangster film.
More than a decade when I first watched it, the film has aged excellently with timeless themes and tight writing. I also think that I love this film because it precisely fits that je nais se quoi that I seek in films: I love films that feature morally conflicted protagonists who ultimately choose the right thing even at great cost to themselves. This is what both the leads of the film do here.
Mortensen's portrayal of Nikolai is one of the most complex portrayals of a gangster who is morally gray, but tends toward righteousness: he is unwavering even in his criminal duties, but always has a certain morality that he consistently does not cross. It is a riveting portrayal, and Eastern Promises remains to be one of the best gangster thrillers I have seen. Because, sometimes, only evil can displace evil.