Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises”

Here’s the trailer for David Cronenberg‘s Eastern Promises (Focus Features, 9.14), which will apparently play at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival. The trailer tells you it’s a Cronenberg fim, all right. Steely, ominous undercurrents running every which way. Focus Features is presumably screening it for long-leaders; I guess they’ll get around to guys like me down the road.
Viggo Mortensen is Nikolai (i.e., “Nee-koh-lie”), a London mobster who gets into a head-turning, challenged- values situation when he crosses paths with Naomi Watts‘ Anna, an “innocent midwife” trying to “right a wrong”, etc. The costars are Armin Muehler Stahl and Vincent Cassell (playing a frenzied psycho for the 29th time…he needs to play a concerned straight-laced dad in a family film)
A History of Violence reminded everyone that Cronenberg excels at realistic dramas about moral conflicts. Forget the spiders and the surrealism — Cronenberg operates best in the clear light of day with ordinary but slightly twisted flesh-and- blood mortals. (Crash, one of my all-time favorite Cronies, was more or less in this vein. Ditto The Dead Zone.) It’s his surrealist-fantasy stuff — ironically the genre that put him on the map back in the ’70s — that has begun to gradually diminish in estimation.
This is not to discredit Scanners, Dead Ringers,The Fly, Naked Lunch, Videodrome and all the others in this vein. I’m just saying Cronenberg is “better” — his films feel more profound and penetrating in a straight-up, less labored way — when he’s not working with visual metaphors.