The start of autumn usually brings a slew of serious minded films after the summer as things gear up for March the following year. Eastern Promises is getting a lot of publicity following the success of A History of Violence as a companion piece, something that sits wrong as that is a western while this feels more like a urban horror like Taxi Driver.
Its tighter plotted and the principle character doesn’t meta-morphise half way through into a cold blooded killer – in this he starts out a cold blooded killer, its just his motives that change. The focus on people trafficking from Eastern Europe makes it uncomfortable viewing, even without the astonishing violence (more of which later), especially the little comments about how girls are traded for cheap booze to ply to customers in a restaurant. The interesting thing about it is the focus on family, what it means and how a family can set the course of its children if no-one else is allowed to help.
As noted the level violence is simply astonishing and includes several squirm inducing scenes that are just wrong. Cronenberg seems to have left behind body horror in favour of just the horror of what its like to have something sharp and metal thrust into your flesh, in particular the fact that skin and muscle resist cutting. Vaguely squeamish? Consider going to see something else instead.
Not sure I can recommend it, its very much a love or loathe film and its slow (almost glacial) pacing will put as many of as the subject matter. It is however a further example of why the BBC matters, being in part funded by it.