Most movies, for instance "Transformers 2," are far too bloated and could use a good half-hour or more (in the case of "Transformers 2" much more) cut out. It's rare that I actually think a movie should go longer. Such is the case, though, with "Eastern Promises."
The movie starts off with the execution of a Russian man in a London barber shop. Meanwhile, a young girl stumbles into a pharmacy, pleading for help before she collapses and goes into labor. The girl dies in childbirth, but the baby survives.
How these two seemingly unconnected events connect is the focus of the rest of the film. Anna Ivanova (Naomi Watts) is a midwife at the hospital who helped deliver the girl's baby. No one at the hospital knows who the girl is and if they don't find out soon, the baby will be given over to the foster care system. Anna finds a diary among the girl's effects, but the problem is the diary is written in Russian.
Lucky for her that she has a Russian uncle, except that he gets grumpy and reluctant to translate it. Then Anna finds the card for a local Russian restaurant called TransSiberian. She goes there and talks with the kindly old owner, who promises to help her. Outside, she finds a driver named Nicolai (Viggo Mortensen) admiring her motorcycle. No, they don't fall madly in love. This isn't that kind of movie.
As it turns out, Nicolai is also a part-time enforcer for the local Russian Mafia syndicate, run by the seemingly kindly old restaurant owner. At the moment the don is having some trouble with his son because of that barber shop murder. What's inside the diary only makes things worse and puts Anna and her family in danger.
There's more to it, but I won't spoil that for you. Though I can say that if you watched "Lord of the Rings" and ever wanted to see Aragorn's butt and junk you'll be thrilled. Me, not so much. (And if we were going to get gratuitous shots of Viggo Mortensen naked, could we at least have gotten a Naomi Watts nude scene to balance it out? I hate to sound like a pig, but come on!)
Anyway, as I mentioned at the beginning, I felt this could have gone longer than its 100 minutes running time, especially because of a surprise twist near the end. As it stands, the movie ends with some things left up in the air and the romance (such as it is) between Anna and Nicolai doesn't really get anywhere.
It is a fascinating crime/gangster drama, though perhaps not exactly up there with "The Godfather." If you liked "The Departed" or "Road to Perdition" then you will probably like this one too. And maybe you'll think this movie promised a little more than it delivered.
That is all.
My score: 62/100 (2.5 stars)Metacritic score: 82/100 (3.5 stars)