Title: Eastern Promises
Rating: 4 Stars
I watched this when it first came out in 2007. I was going to see the The Nice Guys tonight, but it was sold out, so I went home, saw that this was in my Amazon movie list, and decided to give it a shot.
I remember enjoying it and it has held very well. It is an extremely well made organized crime movie, with the focus this time being on Russian gangs in London.
The major characters:
- The elderly leader of the gang (Semyon) loves his family, is friends with all, is unfailingly polite, and is an absolutely murderous monster.
- Semyon’s son (Kirill) bears the crown prince title uncomfortably. He’s a dissolute drunk that embarrasses his father. He wields what power he has wildly. He wants to make his father proud but has no idea how.
- Nikolai is the son Semyon wishes he had. The quiet chauffeur quietly and efficiently does whatever is asked of him and gains the respect of Semyon. However, Nikolai has ambitions to run the gang himself and seeks to betray Semyon (who in turn betrays Nikolai). On an even deeper level, he’s actually an agent of the FSB working with Scotland Yard to infiltrate the gang.
- The innocent midwife (Anna) inadvertently gets involved by helping to give birth to a child of an underage teenager that Semyon impregnates. Knowing that this can bring him down, Semyon tries to stop this information from getting out.
All of this unfolds in a suspenseful, compelling manner. I remember at the time that it came under pretty severe criticism for the graphic violence that takes place in it (particularly the naked sauna scene where Nikolai has to fight off two Chechen hit men armed with linoleum knives). There are certainly violent scenes. Not only are the scenes violent, but you sense the desperate struggle for survival that make them seem disturbingly realistic as you watch them.
Not surprisingly, there are several elements from The Godfather apparent. There is the party scene (in this case an 100 year old woman’s birthday), where the family all joyfully gather around while Semyon lovingly plays the role of the patriarch. There is the tension arising from the generational passing of the torch between Semyon and Kirill. There is the innocent woman (Anna) not quite believing the bloodthirsty nature of the family that she’s meeting. There is even a bit of the tension of the adopted outsider child (Nikolai) uncomfortably being enmeshed into the family.
And, oh yeah, there is a large amount of graphic violence propping up this seemingly innocent family business.