Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. Fabfunk, you miserable slut. How did you pull this off? Man, if I’d known they were test-screening a new Cronenberg, I would have eaten a hobo on camera to get into the theater. Seriously. I love Cronenberg, and it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside to know he’s got a new film in the can. Here’s hoping we get at least a trailer in the very near future. Of course, I’m praying it’s great. What says the lucky boy who actually saw it?
Hey Harry and AICN, Fabfunk here... So last night, I’m pretty sure I was a part of a very special audience, the first ever to see “Eastern Promises”. It’s the latest from David Cronenberg, and I hope I wasn’t biased enough about the film being that Cronenberg might be my favorite director, but he’s been on fire for a couple of decades now- why isn’t he your fave too? Anyway, it was clear that his decision making would take a more commercial tone after “A History Of Violence” mixed arthouse ponderance and DTV action while dialing down the body horror and elaborating on Cronenberg’s still-evolving visual sense, and “Eastern Promises” is a very handsome, expensive-looking picture. Needless to say, he moves even farther away from the body horror stuff to craft what is a pretty immersive, low key story that will probably be ill-received by critics expecting an Auteur’s Spectacular. I would say it’s one of his weaker films, but even his least charitable critics have to admit that this one has a strong hold. I’m not sure how much it will evolve after this screening, but the film seems to tell dual stories. One tale involves Naomi Watts as a young nurse who ends up caring for the baby of as fourteen year old after the mother dies during birth. Finding the dead woman’s journal prompts her to try to retrace the dead girl’s steps, which lead her to the doorstep of a shady restaurant managed by Armin Mueller-Stahl from “Shine”. He’s a kindly old man who seems to operate a friendly business, but why is he dead-set on personally translating the journal himself? And who are the two hoods constantly walking in and out of his restaurant? Silly, those two men are internationally famous Viggo Mortensen and Vincent Cassel. Cassel is the right hand man of what seems to be a sinister Russian mafia organization headed up in London (the film’s location), a loose cannon with no scruples about getting wasted or doing some wasting of his own in the middle of the street. Mortensen is more tightly wound, and as such is the main character of this divergent storyline, where he is an outsider, the “driver” looking to enter what appears to be a sinister criminal family of Russian criminals. He learns of the missing girl and soon realizes he may be in way more than he bargained for. These two storylines weave into each other in pretty complex, unpredictable ways, and what’s most interesting is that the story doesn’t hew to any conventions, particularly not that of past Cronenberg films. One of the questions on the post-questionnaire was whether it reminded me of other films, and I could not think of a single one. Like “A History Of Violence”, Cronenberg is exploring genre tropes and ideas that have long become clichéd. He digests the concept of near-incestual surrogate familial relationships between criminals, as he penetrates the criminal world through Mortensen’s tired eyes. Mortensen is scary intense in this, and while the film begins with Watts’ character, it ends with him as the primary protagonist, as he completes a fairly surprising journey. It’s disappointing that Watts’ story seems to be on the back-burner, as it’s never as interesting and it involves her being inquisitive but passive, but maybe there’s another cut somewhere that elaborates on her role. I don’t want to spoil any more than I have (there are several twists, but it’s fun to just watch the plot evolve) but I have to say, the movie’s got the scene of the year. This will be a quasi-Spoiler- Viggo is in a bathhouse when two thugs come after him, and suddenly this barely R-rated movie becomes something that will make the MPAA sweat. Not only is it a totally brutal one-on-one fight with Viggo’s fists versus two guys with knives, but ol’ Viggo takes them down through about five to ten minutes of bare-knuckled brawling while COMPLETELY NUDE. And there’s no dodgy photography or editing in this- Viggo’s balls are flying ALL over the place. There’s one moment where he lifts his leg to deliver a roundhouse kick, and I could swear Aragorn’s scrote smacked me in the face about six times. If anybody remembers that totally rough naked shower fight in “Get Rich Or Die Trying”, this one is about twelve times more brutal. Van Damme would never agree to that sort of ball exposure, and he’d never deliver the kind of ass-kicking that results from it. Anyway, those who are expecting THE BEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME from Cronenberg will have to settle for what amounts to an interesting experiment of sorts, and a further evolution of his shooting and editing style. There are several crane shots here, and he retains the same interest in the cold, exterior surfaces of personality-less cities, in addition to an engrossing, unusual story. Also, Viggo’s massive, hairy balls. If you use this, I am Fabfunk.