I admit; I'm way late on this one. But, truth be told, I've barely been able to see anything the last two years. So now I'm playing catch up.
Cronenberg's duo of crime films, A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, arrive somewhat unexpected in the director's canon. But, once I saw them, the choice made perfect sense, and made me wish he'd been working with this sort of material more often during his fantastic career. I think the two films are like Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures and Closer or The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique and Check Your Head. In other words, two works that chronologically follow each other, almost forcing you to choose which one you like better? I'm on the unpopular side of all of these, I think, in that I prefer Closer, Check Your Head, and now Eastern Promises.
Eastern Promises has its flaws, but Viggo is working at such a tremendous level (think his moments in Carlito's Way). And it's awesome to see Vincent Cassel show the same rawness and talent that he's been displaying for years in France (I'd recommend revisiting Kassovitz's La Haine if it's been awhile). Now, if we could just find a great English-speaking role for Virginie Ledoyen.
I always felt they let the air out of A History of Violence once they let us in on Viggo's real identity. Whereas the intensity here never really lets up. Way to go Steven Knight. I was a big fan of Dirty Pretty Things, and you've done it again.
Elegant, raw, dangerous, and rigorous, Promises will definitely find a spot in my Top Ten at year's end.
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