Moral Complexity in “Eastern Promises”

David Cronenberg seems to get off on showing close-up shots of gruesome things like people getting their faces blown off with a shot-gun (re: A History of Violence). In a world where beheadings make the news at least two or three times a year, showing two separate scenes of people getting their throats slit is unnecessary. That’s one aspect of Cronenberg’s style I could do without. If you don’t like that kind of thing, just close your eyes for the few seconds when it happens, because the rest of the movie is excellent and well-worth watching.

Eastern Promises tells the story of a doctor, Naomi Watts, who delivers a baby from a woman who works in a brothel. The mother dies and the doctor tries to track down the baby’s family and subsequently gets tangled up with the Russian Mafia — and those guys don’t fool around. Viggo Mortensen, as one of the Russian henchmen, has sympathy for her and tells her to go home and forget about it. But she doesn’t. And from there on in it’s, Oh, jesus, what the hell’s going to happen now? I was surprised at the emotional and moral complexity of the film. Eastern Promises is a thriller with a conscience, and the best I’ve seen from Cronenberg.