bad news bears
Director David Cronenberg
Director David Cronenberg reopened an argument among critics and fans about violence in film when his latest, Eastern Promises, took the top prize at the Toronto Film Festival over the weekend. Eastern Promises, about Russian mobsters in London, has plenty of Cronenberg’s trademark shootouts and rub-outs, which some in the Toronto crowd said made it feel real. Others said it was distracting, unnecessary, and crass.
One thing that makes the violence in Eastern Promises distasteful is that it does nothing to move the story along, said Anthony Lane in NewYorker.com. “Violence is to threat, in his movies, as punch line is to joke: a source of glee to his fans, although every year I find it less amusing.” In Eastern Promises, it doesn’t “drive home the malice” of its characters, but instead shifts attention away from where it should be—on exploring “the spiritual sump where these characters live.” You leave the theater “feeling spooked and sullied, as if waking from a noisome dream.”
The problem with Eastern Promises is it’s not violent enough, said James Berardinelli in ReelViews.net. “Sadly,” there are “only two sequences likely to remind the viewer that he or she is watching a Cronenberg movie.” And other than those scenes, “the movie is lifeless” and ends on a note that makes it “feel unfinished.”
Cronenberg handles blood and guts with incredible finesse, said Dana Stevens in Slate.com. Eastern Promises is an “elegant treatise on the metaphysics of violence.” His character’s bodies suffer horrible damage, but “there’s a sense of respect for the body itself.” The violence is “ineluctable, brutal, and repellent, but it matters.” Even when his message isn’t entirely clear, “you leave his movies feeling unsettled in the best sense.”