David Cronenberg's previous outing was universally acclaimed as a hard-hitting exploration into violence - what drives us to do the dark things we do? Critics fell over themselves gushing plaudits, but if you thought A History Of Violence was a ho-hum, run-of-the-mill action thriller and wouldn't have got half the great reviews it got if one David Cronenberg didn't direct it, you're in good company. The good news is that Eastern Promises is better: Mortensen plays Russian-born Nikolai Luzhin, a driver for one of London's most notorious crime families, headed up by the charming, but psychotic, Seymon (Mueller-Stahl). Nikolai has fallen for midwife Anna (Watts), who has taken it upon herself to investigate the background of a teenage girl who died giving birth. With the girl's diary in her possession, Anna dives deep into the mystery, which leads her to the door of the Russian mob, and Nikolai finds his loyalties split. Penned by Steven Wright (Dirty Pretty Things), who kicks off proceedings with a ghastly throat-cutting scene, Eastern Promises is a gritty, dark affair, delivered with such panache by Cronenberg that it's easy to forgive the odd mob cliches that pop up every now and then. Mortensen is cooler than cool as the tattooed Nikolai, an ambitious and mysterious killer working his way up the underworld ladder, and he's matched by Cassel, whose twitchiness rivals Joe Pesci at his best. Good news for the guys and girls: Cronenberg is back onside and Viggo strips off (like, totally). Something for everyone, then.
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