Posted at 10:29 AM on January 31, 2008
by Euan Kerr
Eastern Promises raises an issue which must have some people in Hollywood scratching their heads. The question: what are the implications of so many violent films appearing in the Oscar nominations?
Eastern Promises is a bleak portrait of Russian mobster life in London.
Bleak and brutal. While I don't consider myself squeamish, I flinched several times during the films various dalliances with knives and cut-throat razors.
Viggo Mortensen is nominated for best actor for his portrayal as Nikolai, the soldier rising quickly through the ranks of the mob. Nikolai is the kind of guy who reveals little, although as becomes clear, if you know how to read his Russian prison tattoos, his life is apparently an open book. He does what needs to be done, with barely a change in facial expression, whether it's unloading a van, or gouging a guy with a knife. During a lot of the film he hides behind sunglasses even in the dank London drizzle.
I need to see more of the films before making a prediction of who will take best actor, but the idea that the Academy will give the awards to a portrayal of tamped down mobster seems a long shot at present.
While this film appeals to the much prized teenage boy demographic, and director David Cronenberg is a master storyteller who excels at delving into the darker recesses of the human psyche, you have to wonder at what point nominating extremely violent films becomes a turn-off for audiences. Sweeney Todd, No Country for Old Men are also soused in blood, and anecdotally I am hearing people say they just aren't interested in seeing these films as a result.
On a side note, I took in "Eastern Promises" at the Parkway Theater in south Minneapolis. It's the first time I have visited since renovation work began and it's good to see the place looking so lively, particularly with the new doorway into the restaurant next door. Owner Joe Minjares who knows his way around a movie set, says he wants to make the place more of a community center, and from my brief visit, it looks like he is making some strides in that direction. Make sure you check out the schedule for the Film Noir series