Eastern Promises

The nominations:

  • Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role : Viggo Mortensen

The Black-and-White:

A gangster movie! Wow — this should be interesting, right? I mean, who has ever thought of making a gangster movie before???!!!! The lifestyle of those stylish baddies should be great fodder for a film! I have no idea of how Hollywood views gangsters!!!! I can’t wait!

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Wait a minute. I seem to recall that there have been gangster movies before! Let’s see. There was, oh yes, The Godfather. And The Godfather Parts II and III. And Goodfellas. And The Untouchables. And The Departed (but don’t get me started about The Departed, especially in the context of the Academy Awards…) And Carlito’s Way. And Scarface. And Pulp Fiction. And … well. I think you get the picture.

There have been many, many gangster movies. Many of them (The Departed notwithstanding) outstanding.

So what’s a filmmaker to do if he/she (probably he) wants to make a gangster movie? What to do, what to do? Hmmm. Oh wait, I know! Try to find a way to portray graphic violence in a unique, new way, and then … hmmm, oh I know: keep using this same trick throughout the film!

Brilliant!

I’m sorry, David Cronenberg, but when you’ve seen one guys head cut off, twice, you’ve seen ’em all.

And that’s about all I can say about this movie.

For what it’s worth, here is the plot synopsis from oscar.com:

Anna, a midwife at a London hospital, finds herself entangled in the dangerous world of the Russian mafia when she attempts to translate the diary of a young girl who has died in childbirth. At the center of the violent organization is Semyon, an older man of deceptive warmth and charm, Kirill, his unstable son, and Nikolai, Semyon’s capable and self-assured driver who seems certain to rise within the gang’s ranks.

For all that it’s derivative. Repetitive. And, except that it has a large “yuck” factor, unmemorable. The originality comes from substituting the Russian mob for the Sicilian, and throat cutting for a garrot. Woo hoo.

The Academy mostly got it right by bypassing this film for nominations. Nyet for directing, screenplay most certainly. The only nomination is for our dear friend Viggo, as Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.

Let me start by saying that I love Viggo. Not in the same way that all of my female friends love Viggo, but I love him all the same. He will always be my king. He is the one everyone wants to get the Oscar. By all accounts, he is a decent and dare I say deserving person (not that that matters), and he certainly has found his way into some memorable roles.

In this film, he plays … a gangster. A gangster with an internal conflict, and a gangster with a double-life. Oh but I wish I could say that he killed in this role (figuratively, not literally), but my problem is that, about 20 minutes into the film, I knew by the tortured look on his face just how the rest of the film would play. Ohmigod, if I would have been “Don” Armin, I would have suspected him from the start, and would have cut off his head immediately. Viggo was tortured, but subtle he was not.

King Viggo — may you reign long and well. I hope to be writing about you in years to come. For now: nice to see you (and for my female readers: if you want to see all of Viggo — wink, wink — this is the film for you), but sorry, not yet.

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